Civics Education: Can Teachers Pass the Baton and Save Democracy?

One of the wonders of New York City is the New York Historical Society, a museum, a library and the host of dozens of presentations by the nation’s leading historians, researchers and thought leaders. I attend the sessions that suit my tastes. A few weeks ago I listened to Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and Yascha Mounk (author of “Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure“) discuss the State of Global Democratic Order – Democracy or Autocracy? Towards the end of the talk Hass bemoaned the lack of civics education in schools and I informed him of the required high school course, Participation in Government, he graciously replied he would check out the course

You can review the course outline, the Social Studies Framework, 9-12, beginning on pp 45 here.  The Frameworks also encourage teachers to “select flexibly from current events,” and, I was thinking, how would I present the course right now?

Content specifications are not included, so that the course can adapt to present local, national, and global circumstances, allowing teachers to select flexibly from current events to illuminate key ideas and conceptual understandings.

As you become more confident in your skills as a teacher you realize teaching is a two-way street; teaching is inextricably connected to learning: you can’t change the output without changing the input. Linking a lesson or a unit to an event in the news is what experience teaches us as teachers. Teachers must be nimble.

I would ask the class:

“Is violent crime rising and how would we know it?”

“If it is rising, why is it rising?” (List all the student theories)

“If crime is rising, how can we stem the rise?”  (Again, list the student theories)

I would include a range of queries,

“Where you get your news?  Newspapers, TV, the Internet, other people ….  Are newspapers and websites unbiased? What’s the difference between bias and unbiased?  What’s the difference between a primary and a secondary source? News and editorials?” 

And ask, “Let’s check out a primary source,”

What can we learn from Comstat data?   See citywide here and your own police precinct here.

Why do the experts theorize crime is rising? Read here and here . Do you agree with the experts?

A couple of days, or weeks of intense discussion, kids working in teams, finding unbiased research tools, public perceptions, the impact of public perceptions on elections: a rich panoply of lessons, the teams identify strategies to reduce crime, take a deep dive into the strategy, pros and cons, and explain your findings in an essay, with links to your sources.

“How about we send our findings to Mayor Adams and we invite him to attend our class and discuss our report with him?”

Civics can be dry and boring to a teenager.  Just before the pandemic I hosted a meeting of local principals and a leadership class from a nearby high school. The presenter was from the Census and explained how the census results can impact their lives.  One of the high students looked, to be polite, disengaged.

A cold call: I asked her why she didn’t seem to care, she replied, “Rich White people run everything, no one cares about us.”

Me: “You should run for office.”

Her: “I’m not rich”

In New York City the lowest rung on the election ladder is county committee; you only need 25 signatures to get on the ballot and you get to attend and vote to fill local vacancies on the ballot

Other students: “Yah, run, I’ll vote for you, you’re always criticizing everyone”

I send her teacher the paperwork, COVID began and schools closed the following week, the move to all-remote schools.

Many college campuses have New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) chapters; the college chapters actively lobby the City Council and State legislature, perhaps local high schools can join the NYPIRG campaigns.

Our role as teachers is to engage our students, give them a voice, and convince them that their voice matters. I call it “passing the baton,” each generation has an obligation to engage the next generation.   If we fail the democracy versus autocracy issue, the question will be decided without us, and, we may not like the results.

And, BTW, if your students are 18 years old before Election Day, make sure you register them to vote; NYS Voter Registration form here: all state offices are on the ballot this year.

School Board Election and Budget Votes: Get Out to Vote

On Tuesday, May 17th elections will take place across New York State, no, not for governor, Congress or the state legislature, for local school boards. School board elections are the very essence of democracy, no political parties, no TV ads, your neighbors running for an unpaid job with lots of responsibility and the potential for lots of conflict.

Local school boards have roots deep in the philosophical soil of our nation.

This preference for local control of education dovetailed with the broader ethos of the American Revolution and the Founders’ distrust of distant, centralized authority. Education was left out of the Constitution; in the 10th Amendment, it is one of the unnamed powers reserved for the states, which in turn passed it on to local communities. Eventually the United States would have 130,000 school districts, most of them served by a one-room school. These little red schoolhouses, funded primarily through local property taxes, became the iconic symbols of democratic American learning.

And, are a relic of the past, European nations, with much higher levels of achievement than our schools all have national school systems with national curriculum and national funding while we still fund schools primarily through local property taxes set in a political process.  According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) the United States lags far behind other nations in virtually every educational category.

Every few year pundits demean local school boards, some argue to move to a European model, See First, Kill All the School Boards here; Louis Gerstner, former CEO of IBM argues to abolish local school boards and Diane Ravitch responds, read here and last week in Education Next, Local Elected School Boards are Failing, Read here.

Local school boards aren’t going anywhere; they are passionately supported across the political spectrum.

There are 15,000 school districts across the nation and 700 school districts in New York State, in a way an example of Athenian democracy.  Any resident can attend monthly school board meetings, vote to select board members, vote on the school district budget, a far cry from richly funded partisan political elections.

In this school board election cycle national politics has encroached school boards. The media has carried confrontations at school board meetings with police called in to keep the peace, Accusations of teaching CRT (Critical Race Theory), it might be a subject of discussion in a handful of law schools, not K-12 schools (blame Tucker Carlson) the oldest trope, sex education, and states passed laws to prohibit the teaching of CRT and in a few states teaching anything which might “discomfort” students (whatever that means). The National School Boards Association made an unprecedented request,

“Threats of violence and acts of intimidation” directed at school officials were escalating across the country, the association said, and it asked the Biden Administration to investigate and use “existing statutes, executive authority,” and “other extraordinary measures” to combat a phenomenon it likened to domestic terrorism. … Attorney General Merrick Garland decried such incidents and ordered the F.B.I. to monitor them.

Newsday reports that school board elections on Long Island “…are getting nasty.”

My local school district encompasses a village at the eastern end of Suffolk County, one K-8 school; the kids attend high school in an adjoining district. On Monday the school board is hosting a budget meeting, and it might be contentious.

Nextdoor Neighbor is a website on which anyone can comment, usually asks a question, “Anyone interested in babysitting? Can you recommend a reliable plumber? How do I get a raccoon out of my basement?”  Questions arose about the upcoming vote on the school budget, “Why was there such an increase in professional development?” “Are they planning to teach CRT?”  “Sex Education?”  

I tried to explain, states received COVID relief dollars and New York State passed a chunk of the money on to school districts, non-recurring dollars, and districts are using the $$ to upgrade teacher skills in the just implemented New Generation Learning Standards (Read here) which will be reflected on the 2023 State standardized tests.

Even in this serene village, everyone nods and says hello, the weekenders, the retirees, the families with roots in the 18th century, the new Latino arrivers, I don’t know how anyone voted in 2020, it’s none of my business, and the usually somnambulant school board election suddenly becomes far more important.

If you live on New York State mark May 17th on your calendar and check out who is running for the school board in your community.

We may have found a cure for most evils, but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.

Helen Keller

Beyond the Bake Sale: Parent Engagement is a Two-Way Street

I was listening to the David Banks, the NYC school leader, he said in his first four months on the job he met more with parents than any other group, he’s to be applauded.  For thirty hours a week teachers are “in loco parentis,” we are the surrogate parent. We hope we can work “with parents:” ask parents to work collaboratively with us, make sure their children are prepared for school every day, checking and completing homework, following up on misbehavior in class, in other words, a true teacher-parent partnership. In some schools parent associations support schools financially, in a few parent associations create 501 c 3 organizations allowing for tax deductible contributions.

At the other end of the spectrum parents struggle to pay rent and provide essentials for their families.

New York State goes far beyond the informal teacher-teacher collaboration, at least on paper gives parents a “seat at the table,” each school must support a School Leadership Team and each school district a District Leadership Team.

School Leadership Teams (SLTs) are vehicles for developing school-based educational policies, and ensuring that resources are aligned to implement those policies. SLTs assist in the evaluation and assessment of a school’s educational programs and their effects on student achievement.

SLTs play a significant role in creating a structure for school-based decision making, and shaping the path to a collaborative school culture. New York State Education Law Section 2590-h requires every New York City Public School to have a School Leadership Team. In addition, Chancellor’s Regulation A-655  Read here  establishes guidelines to ensure the formation of effective SLTs in every New York City public school.

The  Education Law, excerpts below, requires school teams involvement in the school decision-making process, in reality, in too many schools, “school-based management teams,” are simply an item on a checklist, principals are not anxious to have parents intrude on their jobs and parents frequently feel unwelcome.

The law requires,

…school based management teams … develop an annual school comprehensive educational plan and consult on the school-based budget. Such plan shall be submitted to the community superintendent along with the principal’s written justification demonstrating that the school-based budget proposal is aligned with the school’s comprehensive educational plan and the school based management team’s response to such justification  Such school comprehensive educational plan shall be developed concurrently with the development of the school-based budget so that it may inform the decision-making process and result in the alignment of the comprehensive educational plan and the school-based budget for the ensuing school year

…  parent members of such teams make recommendations, consistent with the chancellor’s regulations, on the selection of the school principal and have all members be consulted prior to the appointment of any principal candidate to its school; 

undergo initial and ongoing training that will allow its members to carry out their duties effectively;  

dispute any decision made by the principal to the community superintendent pursuant to  where members of the school based management team, other than the principal, reach a consensus that the decision is inconsistent with the goals and policies set forth in the school’s existing comprehensive educational plan;

Pre-Bloomberg I was the union district representative in a district totally committed to the school-based management, school-based budgeting and the process changed school cultures.

Parents and teachers were not being moved around on a checkerboard by the “powers” from above. Schools created schools-within-a-school, different scheduling, tutoring, arts-based themes, or simply continued whatever they were doing. At first I thought we should inform all schools of the variety of plans, it took a while for me to realize it wasn’t the plans, it was the sense of ownership.

Coupled with a commitment by the superintendent the district created a series of workshops, school budgeting, reading programs, special education, etc., each one repeated throughout the school year accompanied by a manual for each workshop.

(Read Beyond the Bake Sale here)

We know change imposed from above is viewed as punishment (‘what you’re doing now is ‘wrong’”) and participation reduces resistance.

Parents felt respected.

I asked to be invited to SLT school meetings.

At a middle school the teachers wanted to make a change (the actual change is irrelevant), the principal disagreed; the parents were in the middle. The principal finally agreed with a caveat, the teachers create an interim assessment tool; keep track of how the “change” was working.  A few months later I asked the principal how he idea was working, he smiled, the “change” fell by the wayside, “…“the assessment tool is excellent, we use the concept all the time,” A school was using “action research” to drive aspects of school design and instruction.(Read Action Research in Education: A Practical Guide here).

A month ago the Education Committees of both houses of the state legislature held a hearing on whether to extend mayoral control; representatives of half the CECs, the Community Education Councils, all parents, urged replacing mayoral control with a parent-driven management structure.

While the State Education Department, the PEP (the central school board) and chancellors support the concept of parental involvement they have failed to support involving parents in school decision-making at the local level.

A few suggestions:

  • Require CEC approval for the siting of a charter school in a district; controversial; however, charter schools recruit kids from public schools, and public school parents should have voice in the siting of a charter school in their district.
  • The role of the CEC/parents in principal and superintendent selection must be enhanced.
  • High quality training U-Tube videos should be available to all parents,
  • A number of the mayoral appointees to the PEP must be current parents
  • Chancellor should host regular Zooms with parents from targeted school districts
  • Grant districts greater autonomy in curriculum issues.  Instead of imposing Phonics in lieu of Whole Language programs leave the choice up to the school and district management teams, remember: ownership.
  • Continue to increase the number of Community Schools.

Perhaps, survey CEC members, how can their role be more connected to the school communities.

I was speaking with a principal who regularly attracted excellent turnouts of parents in a very high poverty district. I asked, “What’s your secret?” He laughed, “I feed them.”   At the end of the meeting he set up a bar-b-que manned by parent volunteers.

A few months later an auditor from the Department showed up, accusatorily “Why did you buy a bar-b-que?” The principal showed the auditor the bar-b-que and attendance sheets signed by the attending parents. Someone from the District Office “suggested,” maybe you should find another way to attract parents.

No good deed shall go unpunished.

Talking the talk must be followed by walking the walk.

The “Big Ugly” Looms: Albany Edges Toward Resolving the Most Contentious Issues, and, Yes, It’s “Political”

UPDATE: (4/28.22) NYS highest court, the Court of Appeals ruled the new district lines, which favored the Democrats, are unconstitutional, a “master,” determined by the court will draw new lines, the statewide offices, including the governor, are not impacted and the primaries will still be held on June 28, at this point along with the Assembly primary, the Congressional and State Senate lines will be redrawn and the primary will be delayed until August. That’s right, two primaries, confusion reigns.

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You never let a serious crisis go to waste. (And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.) Winston Churchill, Rahm Emanuel and others

On Monday (April 25th) the 150 members of the Assembly and 63 members of the Senate will return to Albany for the sprint to the June 2nd adjournment date. The primaries for all state offices take place on June 28th and the incumbents want to get out on the campaign trail. Governor Hochul, before Cuomo’s August resignation she was a virtually unknown Lt Governor, is running for the Democratic designation against Tom Suozzi, a congressman from Nassau County running from the right, sounding like a Republican and Jumaane Williams, the NYC Public Advocate running against Hochul from the left  As of mid March Hochul was polling far ahead of her rivals,

Gov. Kathy Hochul leads her party rivals by at least 40 points among registered voters, according to a new Siena College poll out Monday. NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi trail her with 12% and 11% of the vote, respectively. An estimated 24% of voters remain undecided.

Only days after the deadline for withdrawing your name from the ballot Brian Benjamin, the Lt Governor selected by Hochul in the fall was arrested and resigned.

Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin of New York resigned … hours after federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment implicating him in a brazen scheme to enrich his political campaigns with illegal donations.

Would Benjamin’s arrest and resignation impact Hochul? She has to choose another Lt Governor to complete Benjamin’s term.

The annual fight over the budget this year was especially contentious; the Assembly and the Senate, in the first post Cuomo budget, wanted a larger role and Hochul, fearing a backlash over exploding crime stats wanted to roll back parts of the 2019 bail reform law. When the blood was mopped off the floors of the legislative chambers Hochul successfully pared away part of the bail reform law (Read detailed explanation here) and the legislature barred any non-budgetary items from the budget, including the extension of mayoral control in NYC, scheduled to sunset on June 30th. Mayor Adams clout with the legislature and the governor was nil.

The days of Shelly Silver bobbing and weaving between governors, regardless of party and a Republican Senate was in the past. (Read Shelly Silver as Cardinal Richelieu below)

As the legislators return on Monday the legislator egos are still sore – Hochul twisted arms and soothed a potential major issue: bail reform; however, her tarnished former Lt Governor is still on the ballot, and a legislative fix to remove his name requires the same legislators who arms were twisted, so far, they’re not anxious to “fix” the Benjamin ballot conundrum.

These are nervous times for Democrats: is there a Red Wave, a Republican wave hiding in the weeds?  Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor was once again running for governor against a Trump Republican, Glenn Youngkin, running on anti-Critical Race Theory, and other far right issues, and, surprisingly, very surprisingly, Youngkin won.  Was it an anomaly? Or, is the ripple a wave? (Read analysis here New Republic title: “If Terry McAuliffe Loses, ‘Hit the F—ing Panic Button’”

Hochul needs friends, friends who vote.

New York State United Teachers, the teacher union in New York State has 600,000 members and the New York City local, the United Federation of Teachers has 200,000 members. A very high percentage of teachers are registered voters and actually vote in elections. Over the years fewer and fewer teachers have voted in the gubernatorial election: Andrew Cuomo, to be polite, was not a favorite of teachers.

Hochul needs teacher votes and the teacher unions to work for her across the state.

How can she mobilize teachers?

Budget is not an issue, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit has been resolved in New York City and the Biden Rescue Plan and other federal funds will be around for the next two years.

Near, or, at the top of the teacher agenda are charter schools and in NYC mayoral control.

There are number of bills in the Assembly Education committee that would increase transparency in charter schools and other restrictions,

  • A05116Relates to applications for charter schools
  • A05117Relates to revisions to charter schools
  • A05118Relates to charter schools in cities with a population of one million or more
  • A05119Relates to the takeover and restructuring of failing schools
  • A05135Relates to charter schools
  • A05191Repeal paragraph (e) of subdivision 3 of section 2853 and subdivision 6-g of section 3602 of the education law, relating to an aid rollback for charter schools; repealer
  • A08801Provides the Board of Regents with final approval authority over all proposed and renewed charter schools

The legislature and the governor have to address mayoral control; there are currently no bills, of which I am aware, there are wide range of possible legislative mayoral control outcomes,

  • The current law can be extended for a year or two …. satisfying no one simply pushing the issue down the road
  • The current law can be extended for a year and a Blue Ribbon Commission (three members each from the Assembly, the Senate, the Governor and NY Mayor, hold public hearings, a preliminary report, a comment period, a final report to the legislature before the convening of the next session)
  • The make-up of the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP) can be amended, six members appointed by the mayor, one for each borough president, one selected by the CECs and one selected by the City Council, the 13 members would include six mayoral appointees, all for fixed terms. The mayor would not have a majority of panel members.
  • The legislature can substantially increase the authority of the CECs, in principal and superintendent selection, creating district-based curriculum initiatives, decide on Gifted & Talented programs and other specialized programs, and, require attendance at training programs for all CEC members
  • Take no action and allow the governance to revert the a seven member central board, one selected by each borough president and two by the mayor and a year later an election process for local boards.

The last days of a legislative session are called “the Big Ugly,”

Big Ugly: It’s a big deal — quite literally. The Capitol can be a deadline-driven place, be it the budget, or the end of the legislative session in June. Laws sometimes are set to expire and need to be renewed or re-negotiated. What happens is often a lot of contentious issues are tied together in one gigantic package crammed into a single bill. This big bill is often fresh off the printer when lawmakers vote on it, sometimes very late at night or early in the morning. It’s an ugly bit of sausage making.

Before you throw up your hands and revile today’s politics remember John Adams, our second president, and the midnight judges, signing appointments of Federalist judges the night before Jefferson was to be sworn in.

Politics is a full contact sport.

College Bound or Career Ready:  Can NYC Prepare ALL Students?  Is CTE “Tracking” Students? How Do We Select the Appropriate Pathway?

I was chatting with a high school principal, he was upset,

“I thought I had a great idea, use tutoring manuals for civil service examinations as texts, Fire Department, Police, EMT, show kids the salary schedules, and prepare them for whatever careers they’re interested in …”

Me: “Sounds like a wonderful idea.”

Principal: “Superintendent shot it down, told me I was tracking kids, told me every kid must be prepared for college, ripped me, told me to check out my biases.”

A middle school principal,

“I told my guidance counselor to have our students apply to CTE high schools, our kid need jobs when they graduate; their families can’t afford two or three years in a community college without any income.”

Unfortunately chancellors seek out the headlines, the grandiose scheme, the “magic bullet,” the lugubrious bureaucracy lumbers from “next big thing” to the next “big thing” while school leaders are in contact with the day-to-day needs of students and their families.

Should the chancellors “push” schools to schedule students, especially students of color into higher level classes?

The Research Alliance for NYC Schools just released a number of reports, Introducing the Indicators of Equity Project and Access to Advanced Coursework in NYC High Schools, and the results are not surprising; student of color have less access to “college bound” coursework in high schools; setting up a conflict between college bound and career ready tracks.

Graduates of public high schools in NYC who enter CUNY colleges in the bottom 40 percent of family income a decade later are in the top 40% of income earners.

Colleges with the highest mobility rate, from the bottom 40 percent to the top 40 percent

COLLEGEPCT. FROM BOTTOM 40%SUCCESS RATE‘MOBILITY’
1.Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology66.066.443.9
2.City College of New York60.562.938.1
3.Texas A&M International University60.762.437.9
4.Lehman College64.657.036.8
5.Bernard M. Baruch College52.369.236.2

Of the hundreds of colleges across the nation surveyed three of the top five highest mobility rate colleges are CUNY colleges with student bodies from NYC public high schools and the research appears to challenge other data about New York City, Raj Chetty and his team and his team at Harvard,

… explore the factors correlated with upward mobility. High mobility areas have (1) less residential segregation, (2) less income inequality, (3) better primary schools, (4) greater social capital, and (5) greater family stability

And Chetty makes number of more specific recommendations, see here.

Let’s take a closer look at Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, fka, Vocational Education.

In the movement to mayoral control the Bloomberg administration closed over 150 schools, including most of the vocational high schools, and, today there are 485 high schools school enrolling 300-400 students sited in multiple school campuses. The unwieldy 492 page High School Directory (See here) and the CTE webpage; the Directory “advertises” the schools as if they were products on the net. Caveat Emptor

While over 100 small high schools list themselves as CTE schools how many students graduate with CTE endorsed diplomas?  How many CTE schools are approved by the State?

How many graduates from CTE programs move to employment? To community college? Where are they five years after high school graduation?

Ray Domanico, at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, is a fan of the small high school movement    and favors a range of assessment approaches,

various approaches to schooling should be encouraged, not stamped out in the search for standardization. Some of the best new schools belong to a network that fiercely argues against reliance on standardized testing and whose students are given an exemption from some of the state’s required exams. Their students go on to college and perform well. Other new schools strictly follow testing standards and pursue more traditional teaching styles. Despite their different philosophies, both types have found success when led by talented and dedicated professionals.

And Domanico is a fan of what he calls, “workforce preparation,” aka ‘career and technical education. 

while the city’s new schools are achieving admirable results, they have not created miracles. Large numbers of their students enter high school already behind, and they are not ready for college after four years of high school. Our nation’s misguided notion that all students must be prepared for college needs to be abandoned and students must be given an option to choose technical education or workforce preparation in their high school years.

Tamar Jacoby, the CEO of Opportunity America, praises vocational education,

Once one of the most disparaged forms of education in the United States, what used to be called “vocational education”—now renamed “career and technical education,” or CTE—has emerged in the past decade as one of the most promising approaches to preparing students for the future. New York City is at the forefront of the national revolution in career education.

On March 15th the Manhattan Institute hosted four experts on a Zoom, CUNY and the Future of Workforce Education, required watching for Chancellor Banks and his team, Watch here

In recent years, New York’s economy has evolved rapidly, which has changed the landscape for skilled labor. CUNY, the city’s flagship university system, plays a key role in equipping students for work in critical industries like health care, technology, and logistics. With a new mayoral administration incoming and a post-pandemic economy, the time is ripe for NYC and Albany’s education leadership to re-align CUNY’s programs with the evolving needs of industry and its diverse student body.

The New York State Department of Education, Office of the Professions, provides licensure in fifty areas, from medicine to massage therapy, ranging from graduate training to the number of course hours. (see here).  In addition the New York Department of State issues licenses in many areas, for example see cosmetology here

New York City also provides licenses, for example phlebotomists, see NYC salary here

While the chancellor includes favoring CTE education in his utterances, no actions that I am aware ofa re pending and too much self aggrandizement.

“A lot of parents just don’t trust the DOE, and they’re very upset with things that happened during the prior administration,” [Banks] told City & State. “I really want to hold the mayor and (myself) to account for engaging them, authentically,” he added. “The parents don’t want to be sidelined; they want to have a seat at the table – and they should!”

At the same time Community Education Councils (CEC), parents elected by parents are pushed aside; half of the CECs testified at a recent legislative hearing objecting to the current iteration of mayoral control and called for an enlarged role of parent on the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP), the New York City School Board.

While Banks attacked the “bureaucracy,” he is the bureaucracy

Adams was elected in mid-July with minimal opposition in the November General Election, Banks was selected on December 17th, its mid April, and planning for the next school year should be fully engaged. Next year’s school calendar has not been released.

Pre-Bloomberg there we about 110 comprehensive high schools with 2000 to 5000 students per school and about 25 vocational high schools. Sadly too many schools were “dropout mills,” the Department of Education had begun to phase out the most dysfunctional schools, created a High School Chancellors District, converting the most dysfunctional schools to multiple small schools within the same buildings. Most of the vocational high schools were closed due to low achievement.

Today there are 485 high schools, about 20 large schools, the remainder small schools, 300-400 students each on multiple school campuses.

Over 100 small high schools list themselves as CTE schools, are they actually preparing student for careers and the world of work?  Are they linked to community colleges and internships?

Is there “upward mobility” data for graduates of CTE high schools?  For students earning state certification licensure from community colleges?

Community Colleges prepare students for associate degrees, sixty credits, the most common cohort are planning to move to 4-year CUNY colleges, for others preparing for a state certification areas, for example nursing, many are eligible for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and/or Excelsior Scholarships.

However, many of the state licensure areas require a number of courses; called badges, not a degree, and students are not eligible for financial aid. 

I suggest:

* A key is alignment: a track from middle school to high school to community college to the state licensure certification for students seeking a career pathway.

* The chancellor should create a Superintendent for Career and Technical Education, with a support organization.

* Create a data base: how many CTE schools are state-approved?  How many students graduate with CTE-endorsed diplomas?   And crucial: where are student five years after graduation?  

* Students in certification programs that are not degree programs should eligible for state financial support aid programs.

* The Department must work with the business community to create internship partnerships with schools.

The current Deputy Chancellors are primarily from outside the system and dissecting the mastodon, the Department of Education is an Herculean task; clocks are ticking, remember, the primary function of a bureaucracy is to maintain the bureaucracy.

Too many students graduate high school ill-prepared for college and career. Too many students never complete post-secondary education.

The NYC economy depends upon increasing the skills of high school graduates.

“The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating,” Mayor Adams Takes the Stage

As the ball dropped at midnight Eric Adams became the 110th mayor of New York City and Bill de Blasio left the stage. The long list of previous mayors is tarnished and none have gone on to higher office, although they tried.

John Lindsay, a progressive Republican was elected in 1965 in the midst of a nation torn apart by urban riots, the opposition to the war in Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The Kerner Report (1967), officially the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders best known passage warned:

“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” The report was a strong indictment of white America: “What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Its results suggested that one main cause of urban violence was white racism and suggested that white America bore much of the responsibility for black rioting and rebellion. It called to create new jobs, construct new housing, and put a stop to de facto segregation in order to wipe out the destructive ghetto environment. In order to do so, the report recommended for government programs to provide needed services, to hire more diverse and sensitive police forces and, most notably, to invest billions in housing programs aimed at breaking up residential segregation.

The Report sounds like it was written yesterday, for over fifty years mayors have failed to meet the Report’s recommendations.

Lindsay was lauded; riots across the nation, Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark, the nation’s cities were burning, and Lindsay avoided the same fate for New York City; he “walked the streets” and appeared to be headed for the White House.

Lindsay’s run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1972 failed.

I blogged in detail about Lindsay here; give it a read, lessons for today.

His successor Abe Beame presided over the 1975 near default, 15,000 teachers laid off, the city saved by Al Shanker, the teacher union president loaning the city dollars from pension funds to avert an actual default.

 For a dozen years Ed Koch satisfied the needs of a deeply corrupt administration, schools were drastically underfunded and venality commonplace in elected school boards in the poorest districts.

David Dinkins, the first Black mayor, who defeated Koch in a primary, oddly refused to negotiate a teachers’ contract for months, lost support and was defeated by Rudi Giuliani, eight years of harsh policing, one could easily say a blatantly racist administration.

Twelve year of Bloomberg, who probably blames teachers for his failed run for the presidency, his recent promise of $750 million over five years for charter schools sounds like pique.

 De Blasio, in spite of his progressive creds and two sweeping victories at the polls is criticized from the right and the left; aside from Chirlene, hard to find his cheerleaders.

Sally Goldenberg in Politico. parses de Blasio’s heritage,

De Blasio proved himself to be a capable  manager who shepherded New York from the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic to a city that reopened schools, restaurants and theaters — all while maintaining one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Along the way, he broke with his own conventions — challenging unions and religious leaders who have reliably supported his electoral ambitions.

But the sharp political instinct that guided him from Brooklyn school board to City Hall eluded him throughout his tenure. He instigated unwinnable fights, waged class warfare on people who fancy themselves civic boosters and persisted in courting constituencies that never much liked him in the first place.

Ross Barkan, on substack paints a picture of Adams very different from de Blasio,

Adams promises something very different. He is wily, unpredictable, and temperamental, his political compass shifting left and right. He is a mayor for the Black working-class and BlackRock. The richest men in America invested in his mayoral campaign, as did neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Southeast Queens. His policy agenda, at best, is thinly-sketched. The de facto head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party will run his government.

The media, from newspapers to Twitter report news as well as “cancel” electeds, and de Blasio never connected with the reportorial classes,

…  traditional newspapers and TV stations cannot so readily sketch narratives anymore and tell people what to think, but New York City remains a market where you want the tabloids, the local radio stations, and Channels 2 and 4 and 7 on your side. Together, intentionally or not, they tell a story, and a mayor does not want to be on the wrong end of it. De Blasio always was.

Adams, a former NYC Police Captain promises reductions in crime and crime has dominated news outlets. Crime data, in detail, is publicly available (Read here) 2020 saw a 50% increase in homicides, in 2021, a 5% increase. The data is posted weekly.

Adam’s success, or lack thereof, in reducing crime will be readily available.

Adams, and his school leader David Banks, have tossed out one-line policy statements; teach reading through phonics rather than Whole Language; the reading wars began in 1955 (“Why Johnny Can’t Read”) and John McWhorter (Read John McWhorter in The Atlantic, 1/2019) and continue today; however, decisions on curriculum are made at the school level. Is reading teaching methodology at the top of “the list?”

Adam’s 100 Steps Forward agenda lists education initiatives, each with a paragraph description, not a detailed policy paper.

* EDUCATION MOVE TO A FULL-YEAR SCHOOL YEAR

* IMPROVE HEALTH AND SCHOOL PERFORMANCE WITH HEALTHIER FOOD

* MAKE DYSLEXIA SCREENING UNIVERSAL

* PROVIDE EVERY PARENT WHO NEEDS IT WITH CHILDCARE

* BIG STEP GREATLY INCREASE JOB TRAINING IN HIGH SCHOOL

* PRIORITIZE SCHOOLS INVESTMENT IN LOW-PERFORMING COMMUNITIES

* INSTITUTE A ROBUST PROGRAM FOR CULTURALLY AWARE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

* CREATE A COMPREHENSIVE LIFE SKILLS CURRICULUM

* CREATE THE BEST REMOTE LEARNING EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD

* BIG STEP MOVE FROM CRADLE-TO-CAREER TO PRENATAL-TO-CAREER

* OPEN UP SCHOOL BUILDINGS TO THE COMMUNITY 

Some of the “ideas” are extremely expensive; childcare for all will require Build Back Better, now stalled in Washington. How do you fund year-round schools? Didn’t Adams just refuse remote learning and order a full opening on January 3rd …. many, many legitimate questions.

Once upon a time reporters simply reported the news, a high wall separated reporting and editorial comment.  Today the editorial side drives the news side (“All the new that fits, we print”), an example, the NY Post. Every reporter is also an investigative reporter and Twitter comments are “news.”

“Clicks” drive the news cycle. We wake up in the morning and check our phone, what do our favorite websites say …. What stories garner the most “clicks” and “high-click” posts beget more coverage and more clicks, until the next cycle. “If it bleeds it leads” is the mantra of too many news outlets.

At one time New York City had four morning newspapers and three evening papers, today we have a seemingly endless array spewing forth “news”

Newspapers are online and headlines/articles change throughout the day (and night) and other news outlets pop up as well as substack and bloggers.

De Blasio was never able to control the news cycle.

If schools turn into super spreaders Adams, who insisted on a January 3rd school opening will have jumped off the diving board into an empty pool.

Cuomo managed the press effectively, he set the agenda, he dominated the face time, Machiavellian, he was more feared then loved. Until the day came, and the media hostility exploded, he could no longer control the press.

From Lindsay to de Blasio, liberal mayors bookend a half century that failed to address the Kerner commission policy recommendations.

… one main cause of urban violence was white racism … white America bore much of the responsibility for black rioting and rebellion. It called to create new jobs, construct new housing, and put a stop to de facto segregation in order to wipe out the destructive ghetto environment. In order to do so, the report recommended for government programs to provide needed services, to hire more diverse and sensitive police forces and, most notably, to invest billions in housing programs aimed at breaking up residential segregation.

Can a Black Mayor, a centrist politically, who portrays himself to the electorate as “one of them” confront the glaring inequities across the city?  Can he walk the line between crime fighter and racialized policing?  Can he work with teachers and their union in a collaborative environment or continue an aimless school system shifting from ukase to ukase?

An old, a very old adage, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”

Stumbling Out of the Box: Mayor Adams Faces His First Crisis

Eric Adams was effectively elected mayor six months ago, months to plan out his first hundred days, initiative after initiative; his campaign platform is spelled out in 100 Steps Forward. 40-pages of big ideas spanning the vast array of mayoral responsibilities coupled with a school chancellor who is a close friend, a police commissioner able to translate his policies, many women in high profile roles and many de Blasio carry-over commissioners.

Adams envisioned a first hundred days akin to FDR’s first hundred days

An inauguration, more like a coronation in the iconic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, a glittering start and then, COVID/Omicron sucks up all the air.

Positive tests skyrocket.   Every morning the NY Times Coronavirus Tracker  pops up on my phone. The tracker lists increases/decreases in COVID positive tests from day to day – on Monday up 28 per cent with the curve almost straight up.

In the final days of school prior to the holiday recess the Department of Education Situation Room, schools report positive tests to the “room” and are sent a “COVID Contact” form: the Situation Room was overwhelmed, phones unanswered, chaos at a key point in the COVID safety chain.

The indoor inauguration cancelled and moved outdoors, testing sites overwhelmed with lines with hours long waits. Stores sold out of COVID home testing kits and Adams faced with a crisis days before he is sworn into office.

Mayor de Blasio on the stage with Adams, still the Mayor is not leaving quietly; a controversial mayor is deciding whether to enter the June Democratic gubernatorial primary race, although his polling numbers are dreadful.

Can school re-open on January 3rd?  Will schools become Coronavirus Super Spreaders? Should testing of all students and staff be required before the January 3rd return?  Should the school reopening be delayed until the testing is complete?

This morning Adams and de Blasio announced January 3rd opening plans.

The letter to parents and staff (Read here) posted on the Department website “strongly encourages,”

To keep our school communities safe upon everyone’s return to school buildings, we strongly encourage that all students get tested for COVID-19, through a PCR, lab-based rapid test, or a home test kit, before returning to school on January 3, regardless of vaccination status.(the Department will double in-school weekly testing from 10% to 20% of students and staff)

The random in-school surveillance program continues to provide public health experts with an accurate look at the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools. We encourage all families, regardless of whether their child is vaccinated, to consent to in-school testing through their NYC Schools Account (Open external link) or return a signed paper form to the school.

How many families have returned the “consent to in-school testing form?”  Mark Treyger, the outgoing chair of the City Council Education Committee requested information on numbers of consent forms returned by school, the Department has not responded.

Anecdotally, schools in the highest poverty districts are neighborhoods with the highest COVID rates and have the lowest number of returned COVID consent forms.

The key person missing from stage was teacher union President Michael Mulgrew.

In an interview on NY1 last week, United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew indicated that – without a major expansion in testing – the union could block a return to buildings on January 3rd. .

“Our testing system that we have is now broken,” he said. “I’m working with the Adams administration. We’ll work through this entire break. But if we don’t see we’re getting the testing system we know we need to keep our schools and communities and children remain safe then we’re going to have to take a different position on this whole schools have to remain open.” 

Whether the actions of the Adams administration are sufficient is unclear,

But experts who spoke to WNYC/Gothamist said it is essential that the city take a more proactive approach to testing, including prioritizing access to tests for students and staff before school reopens.  

They said the city must also increase testing within public schools moving forward. The district serves 940,000 students.

“I’d like to see all faculty, students and staff have unfettered access to the testing that they may need,” said Denis Nash, professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health. 

A few hours ago Mulgrew posted on twitter,

Teachers are prepared to do their jobs on Jan. 3. The real issue is whether the city can do its job — ensuring that new testing initiatives are available in every school and an improved Situation Room is actually in place by next week. (1/4)

We want to thank Gov. Hochul for listening to our request, and for providing city schools with 2 million instant tests so that anyone with close contact with a positive case will be able to know immediately if they are infectious and must quarantine. (2/4)

We’re glad that after weeks of lobbying both the current & incoming administrations, the Situation Room is being rebuilt after basically coming apart in the last several weeks. The system will increase its ability to provide PCR tests to more adults & children every week. (3/4)·

We are moving closer to a safe re-opening of school next week. But we are not there yet. (4/4)

With a million students and a hundred thousand employees testing prior to the opening of schools is not feasible and no electeds are advocating for a delayed opening of schools.

New York City has the strictest virus mandates in the country (Read here) and also the fastest rates of transmission.

On the positive side,

Craig Spencer, a Manhattan ER doctor affiliated with Columbia University who became a Twitter superstar in the early days of the pandemic for his running commentary on the battle against the virus, tweeted a detailed breakdown late Sunday of what omicron cases look like.

“Every patient I’ve seen with Covid that’s had a 3rd ‘booster’ dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine,” Spencer wrote.

From there, it goes downhill – slowly, though.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna still had ‘mild’ symptoms, but more than those who had received a third dose. More fatigued. More fever. More coughing. A little more miserable overall. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty breathing. Mostly fine,” he said.

For those who just had the one shot of the J&J vaccine and never took a booster, the situation isn’t as good.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had one dose of J&J and had Covid were worse overall. Felt horrible. Fever for a few days (or more). Weak, tired. Some shortness of breath and cough. But not one needing hospitalization. Not one needing oxygen. Not great. But not life-threatening,” he tweeted.

And then there are the unvaccinated, who by all data are being hospitalized at a rate 15x or more the vaccinated.

“And almost every single patient that I’ve taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated. Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breath regularly,” he said.

With all school personnel vaccinated and most boosted Omicron for the vast majority is not life-threatening. Yes scary, yes, a dark shadow hanging out there, is there another variant about to drop and disrupt our lives?

On an upbeat note: scientists are well along working on a universal vaccine that will protect against all variants, a fascinating article – read here

It’s Tuesday (12/29), how will 2021 end? With a bang or with a whimper?

Where Have the Teachers Gone?  How Are We Addressing the Looming Teacher Shortages?

 

 

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers convened a new national taskforce to tackle widespread educator and support staff shortages imperiling the future of public schools and public education.

The AFT Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force  will examine causes and propose solutions for districts experiencing extreme shortages leading to immense pressure on educators and families that could disrupt recovery from the pandemic. Adding to the chaos, schools have been roiled for months by poisonous national political debates that have turned them into cultural battlefields.

Two years of a pandemic has accelerated a flight from the profession of teaching. Teaching was a respected profession in communities with some shortages in high poverty schools and in some certification areas; a decade ago we began to see fewer and fewer students in college teacher preparation programs.

Let’s take a longer view:

The first wave of reform, I’m sorry, I’m a history teacher, was the Pendleton Act (1883) that established the federal civil service.

Federal, state and local employees had been selected through a spoils system, political party affiliation, responding to the assassination of President Arthur by a disappointed office seeker, a civil service reform law was passed.

 The legislation was intended to guarantee the rights of all citizens to compete for federal jobs without preferential treatment given based on politics, race, religion or origin.

The reform movement moved from Washington to the states and the boroughs “consolidated” to create New York City. As part of the Great Consolidation the school systems were combined and a local civil service law created the Board of Examiners. Teacher and supervisor candidates took an examination and were placed on a rank order list and appointed to schools.

In 1960s the Board of Examiners came under assault, the examination system had a “disparate impact” on candidates of color and the federal courts sustained the appellants ending examinations for school supervisors. .

The attacks on the Board of Examiners continued, the process took years and thousands of teachers worked as substitutes awaiting the actions of Board. In 1990 the State legislature dissolved the Board of Examiners.

While the examination system ended the school system continued to struggle to recruit and license teachers and many thousands of teachers languished as substitutes. Schools in high poverty neighborhoods, “hard to staff” schools, had a continuing turnover of staff, teachers quitting and teachers moving to other higher socio-economic schools.

The Obama/Duncan Race to the Top, a competitive grant program, $4.3 billion, required teacher accountability systems linking pupil achievement to teacher ratings as well as adopting Common Core State Standards in federally required grades 3-8 state tests.

The unanticipated impact: teacher preparation programs began to see fewer enrollees.

A guide for school districts, published before the pandemic (2019) highlights and suggests avenues to address teacher shortages, Who Will Teach the Children: Recruiting, Retaining and Refreshing Highly Effective Educators, Franklin Schargel (Read review here)

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), again, before the pandemic took a deep dive highlighting Retention and Attraction of teachers.

Teachers are leaving in significant increasing numbers and teacher preparation programs have reduced enrollments. EPI conducted a six part series of articles Read here.

What we can do about it: Tackle the working conditions and other factors that are prompting teachers to quit and dissuading people from entering the profession, thus making it harder for school districts to retain and attract highly qualified teachers: low pay, a challenging school environment, and weak professional development support and recognition. In addition to tackling these factors for all schools, we must provide extra supports and funding to high-poverty schools, where teacher shortages are even more of a problem.

* One factor behind staffing difficulties in both low- and high-poverty schools is the high share of public school teachers leaving their posts: 13.8% were either leaving their school or leaving teaching altogether in a given year, according to the most recent data

* Another factor is the dwindling pool of applicants to fill vacancies: From the 2008–2009 to the 2015–2016 school year, the annual number of education degrees awarded fell by 15.4%,  And the annual number of people who completed a teacher preparation program fell by 27.4%

* Schools are also having a harder time retaining credentialed teachers, as is evident in the small but growing share of all teachers who are both newly hired and in their first year of teaching and in the substantial shares of teachers who quit who are certified and experienced. It is even more difficult for high-poverty schools to retain credentialed teachers.

Low pay is another key issue: Read section on relative pay here 

Teachers also face challenging working conditions Read here

The EPI Report concludes with a series of overarching principles,

Overarching principles for how to approach the teacher shortage problem

  • Understand that the teacher shortage is caused by multiple factors and thus can only be tackled with a comprehensive set of long-term solutions.
  • Understand that the complexity of the challenge calls for coordinated efforts of multiple stakeholders.
  • Increase public investments in education.
  • Treat teachers as professionals and teaching as a profession.

Specific proposals in the policy agenda to address the teacher shortage

  • Raise teacher pay to attract new teachers and keep teachers in their schools and the profession.
  • Elevate teacher voice, and nurture stronger learning communities to increase teachers’ influence and sense of belonging.
  • Lower the barriers to teaching that affect teachers’ ability to do their jobs and their morale.
  • Design professional supports that strengthen teachers’ sense of purpose, career development, and effectiveness.

The EPI report (2019) precedes the last two years of pandemic.

In May, 2021 Education Week released the results of interviews with hundreds of teachers across the country (Read here). Increasing numbers of teachers are considering leaving, the stress is unbearable, and they love their students and are impacted by the politically motivated attack on teachers.

New York City responded to the teacher shortage issue twenty years ago. The Teaching Fellows Program is an alternative certification pathway created to attract second career individuals. The CUNY colleges provide an accelerated certification program in shortage areas. (Read about the history and details of the program here). 20% of new teachers this year are graduates of the Teaching Fellows Program.

New York City also funds a Men Teach Program directed at attracting men of color into teaching. Candidates are recruited from among freshman and sophomores in the four year CUNY colleges. (Read here)

Unfortunately New York State does not fund comparable programs.

The AFT National Taskforce on Teacher and School Staff Shortages will look across the nation, as you would expect the “shortages” issue varies widely. The states are in the process of determining how to allocate the federal dollars and attracting and retaining teachers and other vital school personnel would be an excellent use of the federal dollars.

Soon to be Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks: Peering Over a Precipice into Swirling Waters

Mayor-elect Adams, we can delete the “elect” in two weeks, Adams will be sworn in at the iconic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn and the work will begin.

Adams selected a close friend, David Banks as chancellor, the name New York City uses in lieu of superintendent. Banks is the CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports five grades 6-12  schools targeting young men of color. New York City has a unique school management structure, most schools are clustered in geographic districts; however, about 10% of schools work with not-for-profits with greater autonomy. A teacher union program, PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity for Schools for Excellence), encourages bottom up innovation, programs designed at the school level.

Before he is formally in his position Banks is being panned, the low performance of some of his schools, his lack of experience and his selection of a (de)former as Deputy Chancellor.

Back in my union rep days I was the union guy in a school district in Brooklyn. The school board was about to pick a new superintendent and a principal contacted me, the selectee was a “hardass,” a “my way or the highway” type. I mentioned my concerns at a school meeting and a teacher said they were in the same parish, she knows him well and works with him on many projects, she painted a totally different picture.

I was outside of the hearing room waiting to defend a teacher when superintendent called me over,

“Peter, how can you defend him, he’s a terrible teacher?”

I blurted back, “You hired him, you gave him tenure and the union doesn’t choose its clients.”

A few weeks later he instructed principals to include the school union rep in all new teacher interviews and began to read principal observation reports.  He said they were useless.

We worked on a variety of teacher observations options within schools.

We “agreed to disagree” on some issues, an occasional grievance, and a total commitment to shared decision-making and school-based budgeting.  He was in schools constantly, met with all the school union leaders monthly, and, some principals loved the autonomy and others hated the “required” collaboration.

The lesson: don’t jump to early conclusions.

Banks has a steep learning curve ahead, very steep.

His comments to Marcia Kramer reignites the decades old “reading wars,”

Why are 65% of Black and Brown students not reaching proficiency? The answer, surprising. Banks told Kramer it goes back to something so very basic: How kids are taught to read.

It seems the city changed tactics 25 years ago, and he thinks it doesn’t work.

“We went to kind of this thing called ‘balanced literacy.’ ‘Balanced literacy’ has not worked for Black and Brown children,” Banks said.

“So what do you want to do?” Kramer asked.

“We’re going to go back to a phonetic approach to teaching. We’re going to ensure that our kids can read by the third grade,” Banks said. “That’s been a huge part of the dysfunction.”

John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia University and NY Times writer has been sharply critical of “balanced literacy” (See recent op ed here).

Education Week featured a recent report on reading programs that found the two most popular reading programs, balanced literacy programs ineffective. (Read here).

Balanced literacy programs are used in many schools across the city and some schools are totally committed to them, the “reading wars” never seem to end and are passionate. Is it the program or the teacher?

Do we have data on student achievement by race and reading program?

The teacher union led a curriculum audit prior to COVID, collecting reading and math programs used on every grade in every school, the purpose was to create professional development aligning the programs with the New Generation Learning Standards, the standards now the basis of state tests. Maybe Banks should give union prez Mulgrew a call?

Adams/Banks voiced support for a remote option for parents: in the middle of the school year?  The academic outcomes for students in remote classrooms was poor, returning to remote classrooms, especially for children struggling in regular classrooms is antithetical to everything Adams/Banks espouse.

Banks “solution” for the paucity of students of color in the legacy Specialized High Schools is to create more gifted schools. Unfortunately gifted schools, meaning schools with entrance screens (reading/math scores. Interviews, portfolios) “segregate” schools by ability and effectively decrease achievement scores in the non-screened surrounding schools.

It appears unlikely that Banks will reinstitute the centrally administered gifted and talent testing beginning with pre-k. The Renzulli Method was widely utilized by schools in the pre-Bloomberg days prior to the gifted and talented testing and merits a close examination.

Unfortunately Omicron is hovering over the school system. The NY Times Coronavirus tracker jumps every day as do “positives” in schools, classroom closings are increasing and Governor Hochul is preparing for the surge. 

The best laid plans  …..

By the time Adams is Mayor the question may be “when do we move back to remote instruction?”

Before Adams/Banks jump off the end of the diving board its important to check the depth of the pool.

How are our schools doing?

The Council of Great City Schools, a highly regarded research institution says pretty well,

Read “Mirrors or Windows: How Well Do Large City Public Schools Overcome the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers?” (June, 2021) here

  • Students in Large City Schools narrowed the gap with students in All Other Schools in both reading and math at fourth and eighth grade levels between 2003 and 2019 by a third to a half, depending on grade and subject.
  • After considering differences in poverty, language status, race/ethnicity, disability, educational resources in the home, and parental education, Large City Schools had reading and mathematics scores on NAEP that were significantly above statistical expectations at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels in 2019 (the latest year NAEP was administered) and in most years since 2009.

Before Adams/Banks spin out this idea and that idea maybe they should read a report from the Research Alliance for NYC Schools, yes, New York City has an organization, yes David, you or a designee serve on the board and they laid out a framework, Blueprint for Advancing Equity in NYC Schools: Overview of Priorities for the Next Administration (Read one-pager here)

Adams, Banks and Keechant Sewell, the new police commissioner should understand that some solutions may be beyond their ability to address. Unemployment in New York City is extremely high, over 9%, and in spite of unemployment tax revenues due to a booming Wall Street are high; however, too many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet and unemployment impacts schools and crime.

COVID, crime, homelessness, climate change …..

In 1969, Breslin ran for president of the New York City Council in tandem with Norman Mailer, who was seeking election as mayor, on the unsuccessful independent 51st State ticket advocating secession of the city from the rest of the state. A memorable quote of his from the experience: “I am mortified to have taken part in a process that required bars to be closed.” When asked what he would do if he won he relied, “Ask for a recount.”

Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks: Hopefully Not Geppetto and Pinocchio

Mayor-elect Adams is about to jump into the bubbling cauldron of the NYC mayoralty, a cauldron from which no mayor has emerged unscathed nor has moved on to any other elected office. Bloomberg’s run for president was disastrous, Mayor de Blasio, considering a run for governor is polling in the single digits.

Adams will inherit his predecessor’s budget and his predecessor’s policies, from vaccination requirements, (the daily Coronavirus tracker jumped 23% on Tuesday) to the future of Gifted and Talented classes to the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), school integration (School Diversity Task Force Report) and the current reducing class size issue before the City Council.

Adams has announced his first appointment, David Banks, the CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, a close friend of the mayor-elect who has been waiting in the wings for months.

Adams and Banks have a long, close personal relationship: will Adams say “David, we’ve known each other for years, I trust you, run the school system,” or will Banks simply carry out the political agenda of his friend?

 Adams was vague during his campaign; candidates want to throw a wide net. Since his election Adams has avoided discussion of specific policies and his 100 member education transition team, that’s right, 100 member does not include union leadership or noted education thought leaders. It does include Dan Weisberg, who had a contentious relationship with unions during his tenure in the Bloomberg administration and even more contentious as leader of The New Teacher Project and Eliza Shapiro, of the NY Times reports Weisberg will the First Deputy Chancellor.

Banks is a big personality and extremely likeable,

“He’s intensely, intensely passionate about this work, he’s deeply knowledgeable, and he’s also pragmatic,” said Mark Dunetz, president of New Visions for Public Schools, an organization that supports a network of district and charter schools. Banks is “the type of leader that I think a system as complex and large as ours needs.”

The NYTimes reports,

Mr. Banks said his first priorities would include expanding early childhood education options for the city’s youngest children, improving career pathways for older students, and combating students’ trauma.

Without sweeping changes, Mr. Banks said, “you’re just going to play around in the margins.”

No one would disagree, and, isn’t Banks describing the current administration?

The current Eagle Academy schools look like charter schools, kids wear uniforms, the schools are public schools and have higher graduation rates than surrounding schools; on the downside three of the Eagle middle schools are cited by the state for extremely low achievement. The jump from running five 6-12 schools for young men of color to a 1.1 million student system is monumental.

For the eight years of de Blasio the teacher and principal unions have had an amicable relationship, negotiated two collective bargaining agreements; yes, battled over COVID protocols, and partners in the fights for school funding.  The Renewal initiative, an excellent idea, target the hundred lowest achieving schools and provide significant additional funding as well as substantial funding for mental health services. Both the programs were poorly run and sharply criticized. (Read Renewal criticism here and Thrive criticism here).

Can Banks build on the de Blasio initiatives and improve the implementation?

Banks will have an awkward entry: Who do you keep? Who do you replace? Building an airplane while in flight is challenging and he has to hit the ground running.

He inherits the unresolved de Blasio issues: will he move forward aggressively or seek a new pathway? And, the City and the UFT are scheduled to begin the next round of contract negotiations.

If he hasn’t done so already I would recommend Banks read Michael Fullan’s, “The right drivers for whole system success,” see a selection from an interview with Fullan

Interviewer: Let’s start with change and some of the challenges of leading school district improvement in an era of change. Why do people resist change and what do you feel distinguishes the successful organizations that have strong capacities for change?

Michael Fullan: I think I first want to put the focus on what we call ‘whole system reform’, which is either the whole district or sometimes even bigger, as in the whole state or providence. It’s not one school at a time; it’s a whole set of schools. The ones that we find are successful have superintendents that have put the focus on the achievement agenda and then, instead of focusing on what I call negative accountability, they focus on capacity building. Capacity building in this instance means developing a teacher’s ability at the school level to work together in a collective capacity to zero in on making the changes, monitoring the results, and making corrections. It’s that kind of really strong focus, and there are other elements, but it definitely is leadership and focus as it builds capacity.

Perhaps time to mull over Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken