Cuomo, Nixon, James, Bharara, Teachout: The Merry-Go-Round of Electoral Politics in New York State

A friend has a weekend house upstate, on Fridays he and his wife race upstate to spend Saturday and Sunday canvassing for a Democratic congressional primary candidate: Gareth Rhodes, a 29 year old graduate of CCNY.  The district is made up of small towns with many rural voters; there are seven candidates vying for the democratic line on the ballot. My friend hesitantly knocked on a door, an American flag flying in the front yard alongside a pickup truck with a gun rack in the cab. The owner smiled, “You thought I was a Trump voter – I was – what a mistake, he’s an embarrassment, I switched my registration.”

Has Trump awakened America?  Has Trump invigorated millennial voters? Will the November 2018 elections end up as a rejection of Trump and his allies?

The June 26th primary will select candidates in districts currently held by Republican Congressman: Will voters select current electeds trying to move up the ladder? Choose young new candidates? Choose more women?

If you live in the primary districts your mailbox is probably overflowing with flyers.

The September 13th primary is electric!!

Four years ago Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University challenged Andrew Cuomo in the primary. A turbulent Working Families Party convention barely endorsed Cuomo, and, in September, the underfunded and virtually unknown Teachout lost; however, 35% of primary voters supported the insurgent.

Four years later a well-recognized actor and parent activist jumped into the gubernatorial race. Cynthia Nixon, a political neophyte, grabbed the attention of voters across the state; it was clear that the Cuomo camp was not prepared. Nixon seized the progressive side of the Democratic Party. While the Working Families Party endorsed Nixon the endorsement is only significant if Nixon wins the Democratic primary. If Cuomo wins and Nixon remains on the WFP ballot November will be a three-way race: Cuomo, Nixon and the Republican candidate, opening the possibility of a Republican ending up on top.

Is there is a real “Cynthia Effect“? Has the #metoo movement mobilized voters?

Currently Cuomo has a 50-28 percent lead in polling data, a month earlier Cuomo was polling at 68%.

Cynthia has chased Cuomo to the progressive side of the Democratic Party.

It appeared that Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General would coast to victory, probably unopposed in the primary. In a matter of hours, a New Yorker article  exposed the defender of women’s rights as an abuser of women; and his immediate resignation.

Under New York State law a vacancy in the statewide office is filled by a joint meeting of the state legislatures – in reality, the Democratic leadership in the Assembly.

Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate, was looked upon as a leading candidate for the mayoralty in 2021, quickly jumped into the AG race, rounding up supporters in the Assembly; giving her a foot up in the September primary.

A “deal” was in the making, James to AG and Bronx Borough President Rubin Diaz to Public Advocate and another Bronx pol to Diaz’s job.

The “deal” had a toxic aroma, Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly backed away and the interim acting AG, who will not be a candidate in September, was elected to fill out the Schneiderman term.

James immediately started lining up endorsements for the September primary, Zephyr Teachout may also be an AG candidate in the September as well as Leecia Eve, an Afro-American woman with close ties to the Clinton’s with extensive experience in policy-making within the Democratic Party.

Whisperings, is Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District (Manhattan), going to run as an independent candidate in November? If so, the Democratic winner in September would run in a three-way race in November.

November is not the end, if James wins the city charter requires a quick, election open to any candidate who can collect the requisite signatures, the party cannot designate candidates.

According to the city charter, three days after a public advocate vacancy, “The mayor is required to issue a proclamation calling a special election within 45 days,” the election would be nonpartisan, open to any candidate who can create a new party line and gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Just like for vacancies in City Council seats, the victor of the special election will not serve the remainder of the public advocate’s term. Another primary contest and general election would take place in the fall of 2019 for a candidate to hold the seat through 2021.

Check out a summary of the potential and real candidates across the board here.

The merry-go-round continues, and unfortunately voter participation in New York State is among the lowest in the nation. 33 states have early voting; voters can cast ballots days or weeks before the formal election day, in some states in person in others by mail. Other states have instant registration, the current New York State election laws are “protected” by Republicans who apparently fear increasing voter turnout.

In 2008 and 2012 the “Obama Effect,” younger and first time voters flocked to the polls; however, in 2010, 2014 and 2016 stayed home. Is there a “Cynthia Effect,”? a “#metoo” effect? Will the millenials of the past, new voters and women see the polling place as a counter to the current Washington administration?

The Center for Education Equity in collaboration with Columbia University are sponsoring a conference,

 Reinvigorating Civics Education in New York will explore the state’s current civics-education landscape and foster dialogue on strategies for fortifying civics education in our schools, boosting civic-learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and fully realizing New York students’ right to civic preparation.

 Can we engage new potential voters?

The Parkland and other school shootings has clearly mobilized students: will the mobilization spread across the nation?

My friend knocking on doors upstate is optimistic; he sees a renewed activism in a rural district that usually elected Republicans.

I hope he’s right.


Race is at the Core of Educational and Economic Inequality: Can We Acknowledge and Confront Pervasive Racism?

You may remember the book (2003) and the movie (2011), “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” recounting how Billy Beane, the general manger of the Oakland Athletics, introduced an analytical evidence-based approach to assemble a competitive baseball team, an approach belittled at the time; fifteen years later sabermetrics drives baseball strategy; placing three infielders on one side of the diamond, teaching  “launch angle” swings, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), etc. the world of the cigar chomping old-timers making strategic decisions has been replaced by teams of  young “number geeks” crunching data.

The world of “Big Data” allows researchers, policy-makers and baseball managers to analyze voluminous datasets leading to predictive models aiding decision-making.

Whether deciding where to place fielders or how to increase equality of opportunity “big data” is at the heart of the process.

Predictive models are disturbing, we have our set beliefs that we don’t like to disturb, even if our beliefs are based on deeply flawed experiences, for example was our success based on our own effort or did “white privilege” play a role?

Raj Chetty and his team have been at the forefront in the use of “big data” to parse many millions of data points; the most recent example, the failure of Afro-Americans to move up the economic ladder.

Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States,” Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, (March, 2018) explore decades of data, with depressing findings and encouraging recommendations.

 Racial disparities in income and other outcomes are among the most visible and persistent features of American society. The sources of these disparities have been studied and debated for decades, with explanations ranging from residential segregation and discrimination to differences in family structure and genetics. Most previous work on racial disparities has studied inequality within a single generation of people. In a new study, we analyze how racial gaps change across generations.

 Differences in rates of mobility out of and into poverty are a central driver of racial disparities in the U.S. today. Reducing the black-white gap will require efforts that increase upward mobility for black Americans, especially black men. Our results show that the black-white gap in upward mobility is driven primarily by environmental factors that can be changed. But, the findings also highlight the challenges one faces in addressing these environmental disparities.

 Black and white boys have very different outcomes even if they grow up in two-parent families with comparable incomes, education, and wealth, live on the same city block, and attend the same school. This finding suggests that many widely discussed proposals may be insufficient to narrow the black-white gap themselves, and suggest potentially new directions for policies to consider.

 For instance, policies focused on improving the economic outcomes of a single generation – such as temporary cash transfers, minimum wage increases, or universal basic income programs – can help narrow racial gaps at a given point in time. However, they are less likely to narrow racial disparities in the long run, unless they also change rates of upward mobility across generations.

  Policies that reduce residential segregation or enable black and white children to attend the same schools without achieving racial integration within neighborhoods and schools would also likely leave much of the gap in place.

 Initiatives whose impacts cross neighborhood and class lines and increase upward mobility specifically for black men hold the greatest promise of narrowing the black-white gap. There are many promising examples of such efforts:


  • interventions to reduce discrimination in criminal justice,
  • efforts to facilitate greater interaction across racial groups.
  •  mentoring programs for black boys,
  • efforts to reduce racial bias among whites,

 We view the development and evaluation of such efforts as a valuable path forward to reducing racial gaps in upward mobility, and look forward to supporting policymakers, community leaders, and citizens in achieving these goals.

 Euphemistically called, education reform, operates in a silo, schools alone cannot extinguish decades of racism, etc.

 Efforts to introduce education reform after education reform without reference to deep dives into decades of information has been futile. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, teacher accountability, magic bullet after magic bullet, and, when they fail it must be the fault of teachers or teacher unions, or recalcitrant parents, or, maybe the Network for Public Education.

Former secretaries of education Arne Duncan and Margaret Spellings in “What Ails Education: An Absence of Vision and a Failure of Will and Politics,” criticizes the current US Department of Education for their failure to continue federal education policies, policies driven from Washington that have angered the folks in the trenches and failed to impact outcomes, failed to provide students with the skills to move up the economic mobility ladder.

Schools are part of communities, schools reflect their neighborhoods; you cannot build walls around schools and expect outcomes to buck the outside world.

How many years since No Child Left Behind? Under three presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump the expectation that “accountability,” whatever that means, will result in teachers teaching “better” and students learning “better” still prevails. Forget about reading and math scores, you can use levels of parental education and income to predict educational outcomes.

Race is a deeply disturbing word, the four letter word that hovers over every discussion of education and economic mobility.

If you use the term “white privilege” the white person listening thinks, “Is s/he calling me a racist?”

It was the first session of a college education course, the students wandered into the room, about fifteen students, one Afro-American, wearing Muslim garb; my ice breaker, that initial question on the first day of a class, “What’s your philosophy of education, in one sentence?”

Mohammad volunteered, “All white people are racists, what matters is how they deal with their racism.”

The class looked at me, “Very interesting Mohammad, I’ll have to give it a lot of thought.” I asked the class, “Do you agree? Disagree?”

A few students reacted angrily, “How can you call me a racist, you don’t know me?” others, “I grapple with the question all the time, I come from a middle class suburb, how can I engage inner city Black kids? Can I rid myself of my racist beliefs?”

It was a stimulating term.

At the core of economic inequality is segregation, a new report,”Any Educational Reform That  Ignores Segregation is Doomed to Failure,

Wealthier neighborhoods … hoard wealth and maintain a racially separate school system through a financial structure based on property taxes. Local school districts rely heavily on the revenue that comes from local property taxes, creating funding disparities between rich and poor districts. These primary sources of inequality continue to limit opportunities, suppressing the social mobility of subsequent generations. Yet many education reformers avoid, accept — or even embrace! — segregation, knowing that federal policy got us into this mess and only federal policy can get us out.

 Yes, a rich curriculum, quality school leaders and staffs, adequate funding, are all part of the equation; however, as the Chetty data shows, at the core of the problem of economic inequality is the four-letter word: race.

The abolition movement did not end with the Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, or the Civil Rights laws of the 60’s, the words of Frederick Douglas (1957), on the eve of the Civil War resonate today,

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

“All Politics is Local,” The Saga of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), Assessing Teacher Performance and the Underside of Law-Making in Albany

Mike Schmoker, the author of Focus, wrote a prescient article in Education Week, “Why I’m Against Innovation in Education” at the same time that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg announced yet another richly funded innovation,  “The State of the Art Ideas for Schools,” Schmoker writes,

I’m against innovation in education—as currently conceived and conducted. I’m not against small-scale educational experimentation, where new methods are tested, refined, and proved before they are widely implemented. But I’m against our inordinate obsession with what’s new at the expense of what works—with exceedingly superior (if much older) evidence-based practices

 “Inordinate obsession” is the appropriate term; education policy has been driven by billionaires, economists, statisticians and psychometricians, experts on one field setting policy in another field. A prime example is the work of Raj Chetty, who uses “big data,” statistical tools to analyze huge datasets. Chetty and others, in “The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood” concludes that high Value Added teachers have a substantial positive impact on students into adulthood; however, warns that VA should not be used for teacher evaluation

… our study shows that great teachers create great value and that test score impacts are helpful in identifying such teachers. However, more work is needed to determine the best way to use VA for policy. For example, using VA in teacher evaluations could induce counterproductive responses that make VA a poorer measure of teacher quality, such as teaching to the test or cheating. There will be much to learn about these issues from school districts that start using VA to evaluate teachers.

 In spite of Chetty’s caveat states across the nation hopped on the “assess teachers through student test results” bandwagon. The NYS Board of Regents held a summit, experts from across the nation, expressing opinions on the use of student data as assessment tools. The experts warned that the use of Value-Added was ill-advised; teachers teach different kids each year, as well as different grades and different subjects, the errors of measurement, plus/minus ten, twenty, thirty percent makes the data useless. Another vampire idea, a refuted idea that refuses to die; popping up again and again.

The New York State Race to the Top application, in exchange for $700 million, included a multiple measures plan, teachers rated by a combination of supervisory observations and student test scores. Without going too far into the weeds, the current system, called a matrix, combines supervisory observations and student learning objectives (SLO) also referred to as measurements of student learning (MOSL).

Three years ago the governor agreed to a four year moratorium on the use of student test scores and this year the commissioner was in the early phases of constructing an alternative plan. The commissioner has used a consultative process, task forces or work groups, the names are interchangeable, to propose changes in state policies.

Apparently the state teacher union (NYSUT) had been working with the Assembly leadership to craft a plan, a bill was introduced the day before the state teacher union convention and passed, with only one negative vote a few days later. The commissioner was clearly stunned, and not happy. While changing the law is the responsibility of the legislature, the commissioner is the leader, the CEO of the state education establishment amd would expect to be part of the bill drafting process.

A summary of the changes and the opinions of the stakeholders, read here .

The bill passed in the Assembly was introduced as the Senate, a “same as” bill, and, sponsored by the Senate education chair; however, not so fast. Chalkbeat, the online education website muses over the future of the bill.

Senate Majority leader John Flanagan has a dilemma, the bill is popular with parents as well as teachers, the Long Island Opt Out Facebook page proudly boasts 25,000 members, a number of them in Republican senatorial districts. Flanagan needs cover for his Republican colleagues, and his presser speculates over whether the bill will increase the number of tests, clearly an appeal to Opt Out parents.

Since it was first introduced, the State Education Department, the New York State School Boards Association, and the New York Council of School Superintendents have raised concerns that the legislation as written could inadvertently open the door to even more testing than we have now.  Nobody – not students, not parents, not teachers, nor myself or my legislative colleagues – wants that outcome.  With this in mind, we are performing an extensive review of this legislation to determine the best path forward. 

The School Boards Association also questions the bill, a bill that requires negotiations with the collective bargaining agents

We are concerned that if enacted, proposed APPR legislation that has passed the Assembly would result in additional student testing. 

Unless the state wants to forfeit federal ESSA funds, it still must administer grades 3-8 ELA and math state assessments. Under the proposed APPR legislation, students could have to take both the state tests as well as alternative assessments that would be used for teacher and principal evaluation purposes.

In addition, we have serious concerns about the requirement in the legislation for school districts to negotiate the selection of alternative assessments through collective bargaining. This represents a step backward, as school districts presently have the authority to determine assessments used in teacher evaluations.

School boards would rather see unions disappear than work with them in a collaborative manner.

The leader of Long Island Opt Out sees the proposed law as a “small step,” and is agnostic.

Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann

Admin · May 2 at 6:31pm

I want to be clear on what went down/is going down with the new APPR legislation. First and foremost, this legislation does absolutely nothing for children. Not that all legislation has to be centered around children, but I just want to ensure that if you hear ANY INDIVIDUAL or ORGANIZATION proclaim that it is, they are lying. All this does is take away the REQUIREMENT for districts to use 3-8 scores in evaluations, the way it used to be before the moratorium. After this law is passed, districts will continue to be forced to use test scores as 50% of their evaluation, but now in addition to local computer assessments, the science test, or regents tests being a choice, now 3-8 assessments are back on the list. A minuscule positive detail – they don’t HAVE to use 3-8 tests (as they would have had to use as the moratorium comes to an end). Those involved in creating this bill are celebrating this as a huge win. A more appropriate response would be “very sad that this is all our elected officials could muster.” Some have said “but it’s a step.” I guess that all depends on what shoes you’re wearing.

 The legislature will plod along, adjournment around the end of the third week in June and won’t return, except for an unusual special session, until January, 2019; the governor has until the end of the year to sign bills that pass both houses.

Will the Republican leader bring the bill to the floor for a vote? Will the governor sign the bill?

Flanagan has a conundrum,

  •  Should he try and extract a quid prop quo from the Democrats in the Assembly – signing the bill in exchange for, let’s say, raising the charter school cap in New York City, or, approving pre-K classes in the Success Academy charter schools? Actions probably resulting in dollars from the charter school political action committees.
  • Should Flanagan, sub rosa, try and get NYSUT, the teacher union, not to vigorously oppose fellow Republicans in the November general election? Unlikely
  • Should he simply “say no,” it’s a bad bill, without changes palatable to the commissioner and the school board association? In other words use the commissioner and the school board association as cover.

Or, oppose the bill and try and trash the teacher union as being self-serving.

And, will the governor sign the bill without an endorsement from NYSUT?  The small number of union locals that endorsed Zephyr Teachout four years ago might decide to endorse Cynthia Nixon this time, clearly engendering the animosity of the governor.

The end of the legislative session is called “the big ugly” for a reason.

Oddly, this is not an issue in New York City. The City and the Union agreed upon a system of using SLOs and MOSLs and a sophisticated set of alghorisms that satisfies their needs. Under the last year of Bloomberg 2.7% of teachers received unsatisfactory ratings, under the current matrix, less than 1% of teachers received ineffective ratings. The question of the number of observations will be part of the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations.

Maybe a sentence that should be posted above the Albany legislative chambers:

“No mans life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Gideon J. Tucker, NYS Surrogate, 1866

The Paradox of Choice: Can New York City Continue Expanding Public/Charter School Choice and Move to Integrate Schools?

Four years ago the Civil Rights Project  at UCLA issued a report,

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.

How is it possible? New York City and State are progressive, the first state to pass a Marriage Equality law, the strictest gun control laws in the nation, a far left progressive mayor, a governor who has just been dipped in the baptismal pool of progressivism, perhaps,  not voluntarily, by Preacher Cynthia.

Who is the villain? Who segregated schools in a progressive city? It must be that evil “gentrification;” those millennials paying thousands of dollars in rents or millions buying apartments in high rise building replacing older rent controlled buildings; chasing people of color into tighter and tighter ghettoes.

Of course millennial dollars are creating jobs and paying taxes that pay for the city services we all enjoy.

The Center for New York City Affairs report, “The Paradox of Choice,” (read the report here  and watch the presentation and panel here) challenges the notion.

The researchers, Nicole Mader and others uncovered fascinating datasets. The creation of numerous programmatic choices in schools across the city have played major roles in the increasing the segregation of schools.

while most kindergartners continue to attend their zoned schools, it’s a surprisingly narrow and shrinking majority. Only 60 percent of New York City kindergartners attended their zoned schools in the 2016-17 school year, the last year for which complete enrollment figures are available. That’s down from 72 percent in 2007-08. This explosion of school choice means that more than 27,000 kindergarten students leave their school zones every morning to attend charter schools, schools with gifted classes, dual language programs (with instruction in two languages), and traditional public schools for which they are not zoned.

 Blaming gentrification is simply shifting the blame; a tweet from NYAppleseed hits the nail on the head,

A careful and comprehensive review of data by The Center for NYC Affairs drives the death knell into the myth of school segregation in NYC being caused entirely by residential segregation (@ NYApppleseed)

The panelists, NYS Chancellor Betty Rosa, Department of Education Diversity Task Force chair Maya Wiley, also a New School professor, two other scholars and a parent association president who is also a District 3 school board member chatted. The elephant in the room: why were parents making choices to move their kids away from zoned schools?  For me, the answer is simple; parents are more concerned with the perceived well-being of their children than the issue of school integration. The packed auditorium, the entire panel, all were strong advocates for policies supporting school integration, clearly, 40% of parents, are not.

The PA president’s school is in the lower part of Harlem, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood; however white parents are opting to send their children to other schools. The PA president praised his school, parent involvement, an excellent, caring staff, a range of programs; however, with only a few mouse clicks data dashboards for every school in the city are readily accessible.  The data for the PA president’s school (See dashboard here ) is mediocre, according to the data.

Schools are far more than charts and graphs, far more than scores on standardized tests, yes, parents should check schools in person; however, data tells a story.

Last fall Chalkbeat held a forum on the high school admission process, a presentation by the Department and a large panel: school leaders, teachers, parents and students. One parent bemoaned, “Why aren’t there more ‘good schools?’” I asked her to define a “good school,” she had trouble defining, I asked, “A school with kids like your daughter?” She agreed. Did she mean the same race as her daughter? Did she mean with good grades? Did she mean the range of courses? Defining a “good school” can be complex, or, easy,

I was at the Mets game a few days ago (No Mets comments, please), chatting with the guy sitting behind me, he wanted to get his son into a particular public school, “Took some investigation, a friend made some phone calls, we got him in.”

The Bloomberg/Klein administration created a wide range of special programs, part of the portfolio strategy, a marketplace approach. The unintended result: to further segregate schools, to create a swath of underutilized school buildings in the poorest sections of the city and overcrowded “whiter” schools, high demand schools and programs within schools. No, Betsy DeVos did not design the plan, school choice is alive and well in the Apple.

Of the 32 geographic school districts in New York City only three are involved in a rezoning process (District 3: Upper West Side, District 1: Lower East Side and District 15: Brownstone Brooklyn), and there is pushback within the three districts. The plans are versions of controlled choice  and blind choice school integration plans. Will the courts support or reject plans that reserve formerly white seats for Black youngsters?

Chancellor Carranza and Mayor de Blasio have implied that plans must originate from the school boards (called Community Education Councils); I don’t believe other school boards are engaged in discussing integration plans.

When the moderator asked the panelists whether they believed the city would move forward with a citywide integration initiative task force chair Wiley explained: the 40-members task force had to sort through public comment and recommend a plan/policy by December. Was Wiley hopeful? She called herself, a “possibilist.”

What started as a dispute involving two schools in the Upper West Side (PS 191 and PS 195) last year has become a citywide issue that could define the new chancellor: Will integration plans have to emanate from local schools boards (CECs) or will the chancellor create a citywide plan and back away from the current choice options? Will the mayor risk alienating the 40%, the predominately white parents taking advantage of public/charter school choice?

Remember, only 14.7% of kids in New York City schools are white: the breakdown is 45% Hispanic, 25% Black, and 15% Asian. How many schools have to integrated to satisfy the integration advocates?  Is the school integration-segregation controversy a lose-lose?

There is little discussion of what happens within integrated schools: Are the classes within the school heterogeneous? Are the staffs integrated? Are the parent associations integrated? And getting back to that parent who spoke of “more good schools,” why can’t more “selective” schools be located in communities of color?

And, never forget, every decision has political implications, in the city, and, across the country.

Chancellor Carranza’s Theory of Change: Create a New Research-Based Urban Education Paradigm or Implement Proven Education Programs?

The new chancellor has been skipping from school to school for a month: the obligatory meet and greet new chancellor tour; heavily scripted trips around the city, the Sherpas arranging carefully controlled media availability, meetings with community and political leaders, lots of pictures with kids and the smiling chancellor. I had an opportunity to tag along on one these tours in the past: you could sniff the aroma of fresh paint, the custodian touched up the school the day before the visit, the student work on the bulletin boards all dated the day before the visit, the obligatory walk-through the day before by the superintendent to make sure everyone was on their best behavior as the chancellor smiles and shakes hands his inbox piles up with folder after folder.

Inbox folders: Specialized HS Options, Diversity (Note: NEVER use the words integration, or, heavens forbid, segregation), Suspensions, Renewal Schools, Fair Student Funding formula, UFT contract negotiations, ATRs, Management structure, Political relationships, Media relationships and more.

Will the chancellor’s management style be to respond to criticism, or, create his own agenda? His predecessor responded to criticism by creating a “program,” with dollars and a press release attached and move on to the next issue. The one initiative that she created, Renewal Schools, has been subject to constant criticism.

Many school and school district leaders follow a triage management philosophy; running from school to school, from problem to problem pouring water on the flames; unfortunately, they sometimes pour from the wrong bucket, pouring gasoline on the problem

After a raucous meeting at an Upper West Side white parents spoke out against a school integration plan, the chancellor, at 1 am retweeted, 

,”WATCH: Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools,”

The next day the mayor was asked to respond,

“I don’t think he at all intends to vilify anyone — he’s not that type of person,” said de Blasio. “This was his own personal voice … I might phrase it differently.”

At a school visit the next day the chancellor responded to reporters,

“The criticism of my predecessor Chancellor Fariña was that she didn’t do anything about this,” he said. “And here I am in my first month actually engaging in this conversation.”

“Let’s all take a breath,” Carranza said. “Let’s let communities come forward with what their solutions could be. Let’s give the space to our CECs to lead those conversations.”

The following day  the chancellor called the plan “very modest, quite frankly,” and a few days later,  “Nowhere in there (the District Three Middle School Integration Plan) are they talking about some of the very drastic things like busing or like rezoning or any of those things. I think it’s a modest conversation to be had.”

Welcome to the Big Apple.

A heartfelt comment tweeted out results in a few days of scrambling and back pedaling.

I was on a review team visiting a low performing middle school; we arrived at the school bright and early, the secretary apologized, the principal was busy assigning coverages for absent teachers. The principal walked into the meeting, somewhat disheveled, “Had to find teachers for coverages, we can never find enough substitutes.” The team leader began the meeting with a soft question, “How would you describe the qualities of an effective teacher?” The principal, replied immediately, “They come every day and blood doesn’t run out from under the door”

Triage management, advance planning is the crisis of the moment and the norm becomes constant triage: a description of the job of the NYC Chancellors of the past?

Does the new guy have a theory of action?  Guiding principles?

Marc Tucker, President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in a paper entitled, “The Problem with the ‘What Works’ Approach to Education Research and the Case for Focusing on the Determinants of Highly Successful Education Systems” is sharply critical of focusing on programs, which he sees as commonplace, as the reason for mediocre student outcomes decade after decade. Tucker urges research leading to systemic change.

In my judgment … what the “proven program” research paradigm actually does is identify programs that produce marginal results in a dysfunctional system, when the real issue is how to fix the system, a problem that cannot be addressed with this paradigm.

 The underlying logic is simple. Start with the problem – say, a large proportion of students leave elementary school two or more years behind in reading. Come up with a theory about the cause of the problem and, to test the theory, use the theory to develop … a program. Administer the program with statistical controls … Then, put all the programs whose effect size crosses a certain threshold and meet certain criteria for research quality on a list of proven programs. Then stand back and watch the policymakers implement them in great numbers, replicating everywhere the results the researchers observed. Except, of course, they don’t. They never have, and when they do, we don’t see much improvement at scale.

 What researchers in the United States are doing is identifying programs that are at least making a little difference in a highly dysfunctional system. They tell you nothing whatsoever about how to build a highly effective system. They are a prescription for assembling a house of Band-Aids, when we could be building a great house.

 And that bring us to the main point, which is that effective schools, districts and states are not compilations of effective programs. They are effective systems. You may have a great way to teach reading, but, if you have lousy teachers, it won’t produce great reading results. You may have great teachers, but, if the school leader is a petty tyrant and does not support good teaching, the good teachers will either leave or give up while going through the motions of teaching.

Tucker concludes,

I am advocating for is a large program of research on the most successful education systems in the world, organized to help American states understand what combination of features of their systems account for their success, or, put another way, what the common principles are that underlie the different approaches they have taken. What is needed is a design orientation, which is to say that the purpose of this research should be to facilitate the redesign of our current state systems of education for high performance.

  Robert E. Slavin Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in “Using What Works [is the] Best Way Forward,” sharply disagrees with Tucker, he avers there are specific interventions that work.

 The only programs known from research that routinely add the equivalent of 20 or more PARCC points involve tutoring. This is particularly true when tutoring exists in a response-to-intervention format, in which students receive only the services they need. Tutoring is expensive. However, its costs can be greatly reduced by hiring high-quality paraprofessionals (teacher assistants), such as ones who have a B.A. Also, effective tutoring is likely to reduce special education costs in the long term. The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE), which I lead, recently completed a research review and found that tutoring from high-quality paraprofessionals exercised substantially positive outcomes on student achievement, averaging the equivalent of 26 PARCC points for one-to-one tutoring in reading or math, and 14 points for one-to-small group tutoring. If continued with integrity and care across multiple years, a growing number of students would reach “proficient” each year … students eventually could advance far beyond those in Massachusetts and “top-performing” countries. And there would be additional benefits: the apprenticeship model of hiring and training high quality tutors could bring talented, eager, recent college graduates into the teaching profession.

 The most important problem in America’s schools is not our middling PISA scores. It is the persistent gaps in achievement according to social class and ethnicity. Middle-class, White, and Asian students do not present major achievement challenges for our country. It is African American, Hispanic, and Native American students, and disadvantaged students of all ethnicities, whose learning demands our full attention … My proposal goes to the heart of this problem.  There is nothing wrong with struggling learners that tutoring and other proven programs cannot substantially improve. 

Is Carranza the “firefighter” chancellor, responding to blazes, hopefully quelling the jibes of critics and the media? Or, as per Tucker, will be spend months analyzing and researching the system and move forward with sweeping systemic change? Or, as per Slavin, will he select well-researched programs, for example, tutors, and put the programs at the core of the teaching/learning process?

In the meantime those inbox folders continue to grow as advocates and critics lose patience, remember the new journalism mantra: if it bleeds, it leads.

My recommendation for Richard: exercise, meditation and lots of mariachi practice – you picked one stressful job!!


How Does Implicit Bias, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Gender and Race Impact the Teaching and Learning Process?

My early morning infusion is a quick doppio from the neighborhood Starbucks and today a little research. Twenty customers, all white, most tapping away on a laptop or other device, fourteen had cups nearby, the others not. Needless to say no one was asking the non-drinkers to leave. For many, Starbucks is a virtual office, good WiFi, readily available beverages, and you can work away for hours. The Starbucks “incident,” the arrest of two black men can be described as an example of “implicit bias,”

Implicit bias,

Implicit bias is the automatic associations people have in their minds about groups of people, including stereotypes. It forms automatically and unintentionally, but results in attitudes, behaviors or actions that are prejudiced for or against a person or a group of people.

 Two black men, hanging out, must be “up for trouble.” Black men, regardless of their income or level of education can regale you with “incidents,” of being hassled for being black, experiences that white men never can imagine, they have the protective coating of white privilege.

What is white privilege? It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place …. a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.

A few years ago I was at a session at a conference, a session dealt with “culturally competent pedagogy,” a controversial term. One of the participants commented. “They’re going to teach us to be black.” Yes, controversial.

The teaching side of education is well-documented, there are a range of frameworks describing teaching behavior, Charlotte Danielson, Kim Marshall, Marzano and others,  all claim that teaching behaviors are scientifically documented. In New York State and many other states teacher performance is assessed by one of the frameworks.

The other side of the teaching/learning process is not well-documented with lots of speculation.  Does a rigid adherence to a set of frameworks guarantee learning? Does the gender, race or ethnicity of the teacher impact student learning? Should we alter teaching strategies based on the gender, race or ethnicity of the student?

I come from the days of the developmental lesson that begins with a motivation: an activity, or a statement, or a cartoon, a brief activity to seize the attention of the student, to engage the student. It didn’t always work, was it the inadequacy of my motivation or the alienation of the student?

I’ve met many teachers who aver, “I’m a really good teacher; some kids just don’t care.” Are they “really good teachers?” Are there kids who “really don’t care”? Is there a classroom triage: we teach the kids we can reach? For many of us those failures haunt us: what could we have done differently?

We’re encouraged to differentiate, to change/alter instructional strategies to match the needs of individual kids.

Over the last few decades a new theory has entered the world of education: the theory of culturally competent pedagogy: teaching strategies to match the culture of the students, In Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit delves into the question of cultures,

A connecting theme throughout the book is how power imbalances and cultural conflicts within classrooms occur within a larger society that nurtures and maintains stereotypes. 

The culprit in these situations is not simply racism, though it certainly plays a part. It is the reluctance of people, especially those with power and privilege, “to perceive those different from themselves except through their own culturally clouded vision.” This inability is particularly destructive in classrooms where teachers view low-income and minority children as “other” and “see damaged and dangerous caricatures of the vulnerable and impressionable beings before them” 

New York State is in the process of establishing competencies for school leaders, The “Principal Preparation Project Advisory Team Preliminary Set of Consensus Recommendations,” uses the term “culture” a number of times.

 * Recognize, respect, and employ each student’s strengths, diversity, and culture  as assets for teaching and learning. Ensure that each student has equitable access to effective teachers, learning opportunities, academic and social support, and other resources necessary for success.

 * Confront and alter institutional biases of student marginalization, deficit-based schooling, and low expectations associated with race, class, culture and language, gender and sexual orientation, and disability or special status.

Promote the preparation of students to live productively in and contribute to the diverse cultural contexts of a global society.

What the numerous mentions of culture  fails to do is to define culture.

An NYU team takes a deep dive in the world of culturally responsive education, D’Andrea Montalbano, P., & Kirkland, D.E. (2017). “Culturally Responsive Education: A Primer for Policy and Practice,

The authors, citing numerous research studies endorses the impact of culturally responsive education (CRE) and explores the challenges,

… the challenge is how to solidify the theory of cultural responsiveness into concrete policies and practices that can support learning for all students. To this extent, its critical lens has been applied to curriculum, classroom design, instruction, home-school relationships, disciplinary policies, and school-wide initiatives to promote equity, social justice, community outreach, improvements to school climate, and academic achievement.

The authors acknowledge the gap between research and the classroom practice.

  Given all this rich scholarship, policymakers and practitioners alike are left with the obvious question: “What do we do with all this?” Assuming everyone accepts the general premises of the largely theoretical research and what quantitative data do exist, what is culturally responsive education? Is it a curriculum? A teacher training protocol or program? An accountability system? Can it be any or all of them? The scholars who helped shape and expand this philosophy differ in both specific and vague ways on such questions

 A principal friend (black) was in a school waiting in the office to meet with the principal, the dean (white) escorted two girls (black) into office aggressively chastising them, “Fighting is unacceptable, I’d suspend both of you, this isn’t the first time …wait for the principal, it’s up to her.”

My friend walked over to the two girls, who were glowering at each other,

“You girls like Carti – b?”

They were surprised, a teacher, even a black teacher knowing about the latest big voice in hip-hop.

He asked, “Do you know she doesn’t write her own songs, she buys songs.”

One of the girls knew, the other didn’t, my friend engaged the girls in conversation – the principal came out of her office and began to chastise the girls for fighting.

Both girls turned to the principal, “Everything’s cool,” and walked away continuing the discussion.

I asked my friend, “An example of culturally relevant education?”

My principal friend smiled: “Experience, knowing 12-year olds and the art of distraction, I’ve read a lot about CRE, I’m still not too sure what it is.”

Teaching is about connecting with your students, understanding the world of your students, “catching them” whereever they are and bringing them to where you want them to be.

Yes,  a Black or Latinx or an Asian teacher might  have an initial advantage, a leg up in relating to the student, might become that role model that changes lives, or on the other hand the “advantage” might fade, the teacher might not have the requisite teaching skills.

If culturally relevant education, whatever that is, can be translated into engaging students, so be it, I’m in; however, throwing around the “term of the moment” can just be another education trompe d’oeil.

Join Us: Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools, presentation and panel discussion

Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools

Thursday, April 19, 2018, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
North Academic Center Room 1/203

The City College of New York

160 Convent Avenue

Dr. David E. Kirkland, the Executive Director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools, will be on campus to discuss the Center’s latest publication, “Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools.”

Research Paper Separate and Unequal: A Comparison of Student Outcomes in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools

After the talk, Professor R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy (Black Studies / Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership), Professor Terri N. Watson (School of Education) and Nan Mead, the Manhattan member of the Board of Regents will participate in a panel followed by a Q & A. Discussion based on the report

Please share this with those who are out of town as we want to encourage as many guest to attend as possible.

Participants should go to Blue Jeans link prior to the scheduled meeting date to ensure that they will be able to join the session.

Once they are ready to join on the meeting date, they can click on the link below to enter the meeting.