Another School Year Ends: Time for Teachers to Decompress and Use Those Organizational Skills in the World of Politics

Did you hear that “whoosh” sound that swept across the city only a few hours ago?  A weather anomaly?  No, the whoosh was 70,000 teachers breathing out – the end of another school year.

Teaching is a complex and enervating task.

For many of us we are the only stable adult in a child’s life. Households can be chaotic, children can have a variety of caregivers, ask teachers of 3, 4 and 5 years old, they hear the stories and they try and respond.

Each teacher is the author, actor, director and critic of a play with a run of one day. One day our play is a hit, the next day a flop. No matter the quality of the script, the lesson plan, there are no guarantees of success. The teaching process might check all the boxes, the object of the process; the children change from day to day.

When the light bulb goes off we give an internal fist bump, when s/he looks at us blankly we snarl: what did we miss, what am I not doing?

With each year, hopefully, we get better, our toolkit get deeper, we become more competent, we become a better self-critic, we become more reflective.

The external critics are many; the public may scoff, “They have the summers off,” for others teaching is simply babysitting, except if we’re teaching their children.

School leaders may be collaborative partners or egotistical oligarchs, and school district leaders often seem to be in another galaxy.

The chancellor may have anti-bias training at the top of his list, for teachers, help in getting kids to come to school everyday may be the first priority.

We may never know the impact of our efforts.

A plumber, a carpenter, an electrician can flip a switch or turn a knob and know whether their repair was correct.

As teachers, we rarely know, a simple act of kindness can change a student’s life.

A kid in my class was small, bothered with teenage acne, he always sat right next to my desk and was a loner. One day he apologizes for not doing his homework. I gave him a “teacher look,” he said, apologetically, “I’m in a band, our practice ran late.”

“Is the band any good?”

The kid hesitated, I said, “Bring me a cassette”

I gave it to my son who had a friend who was in the music scene.

He had a promoter listen to the cassette; I passed along advice  to the kid, “Pretty good, keep playing at open mikes.”

Years later an adult stops me in the street, “Mr. G, nice to see you.”

It took me a few seconds, the same kid, I asked, “What happened with the band?”

He laughed, “We weren’t that good, I become the sound guy, and I’m a sound technician now, make a good living, I always wanted to thank you for the encouragement.”

An offhand comment can impact a kid’s life.

An alumna of the school in which I taught is writing a history of the school based on the school newspaper that was published every month over many decades.

Three kids she interviewed vividly remembered an assignment from my class about thirty years ago.

In a Sociology class we constructed a statistically correct survey of student attitudes and opinions and presented it to the principal.

We’re “judged” by our students’ success and failures. Are we responsible for a kid’s success, and, conversely, for their failures? Could we have done better?

Kids seem to take endless tests, we prepare them, and did we do enough?

It is not surprising that the teacher attrition rate is far beyond any other profession, and, the neediest schools have the highest attrition.

The recently negotiated New York City teacher union (UFT) is offering a higher rate of pay for teachers in designated high attrition schools.

Teachers need time to decompress, to get away from the increasing pressure as the school year prepares for April/May state testing or the June high school regents exams.

For some teachers: a week off and on to teaching summer school, to pay off college loans or just get ahead of the curve. For others, summer school to complete required course work.

In my day really low cost charter flights (“Air Obscure”) a backpack and a summer of traveling across Europe with a Euro pass staying in hostels.

One change, a major change, is teacher political activism. As the attacks on teachers escalated teachers began to realize that the organizational skills of classroom teachers are transferable to the skills required to elect a candidate. More and more teacher are running for office and working in the political arena.

I have friends working for an organization fighting the concentration camps incarcerating children and families on our Southern borders, reminiscent of teacher civil rights activism in the 60s.

For my teacher colleagues: read a few books, eat a healthier diet, plenty of exercise, and keep a notebook, as the light bulb flashes, jot it down, before you know it you’ll be waking up really early thinking of the clock counting down the days to that Tuesday after Labor Day.

The Downside of Mayoral Control: Can Political Agendas Drive Education Policy?

For a millennium superintendents, selected by elected lay school boards managed schools. Educational policy was set by the neighbor down the block and his/her neighbors who had the political smarts to get elected in non-partisan elections commonly held in May, with low voter turnouts. Superintendents walked a thin line, satisfying a school board, negotiating a labor agreement, and making  educational decisions that result in “progress.”

In most nations education is section of the national government  .

In the nineties a few urban school districts began to move to mayoral control; the mayor appoints the superintendent and the superintendent, in effect, serves as a deputy mayor for education.

Some scholars have assessed mayoral control positively (See here and here),

Kenneth Wong in The Education Mayor wrote,

 …  although mayoral control of schools may not be appropriate for every district, it can successfully emphasize accountability across the education system, providing more leverage for each school district to strengthen its educational infrastructure and improve student performance.

Diane Ravitch, on the other hand, is sharply critical of the Bloomberg iteration of mayoral control and suggests a mayoral control model with strong checks and balances,

This is not to say that Albany should eliminate mayoral control — nobody wants to return to the status quo of the ’90s. However, as legislators refine the law, they should establish clear checks and balances. The mayor should be authorized to appoint an independent Board of Education, whose members would serve for a set term. Candidates for the board should be evaluated by a blue-ribbon panel so that no mayor can stack it with friends. That board should appoint the chancellor, and his or her first responsibility must be to the children and their schools, not to the mayor.

 While Bloomberg battled with the teacher union de Blasio has worked closely with the union; under Bloomberg the union went five years without a contract and punitive teacher unsatisfactory ratings ballooned, under de Blasio two contracts have been collegially negotiated and a new teacher evaluation system is working well.

The mayor and his chancellor have been sharply critical of the lack of school integration, the racially exclusive impact of the Specialized High School Admissions Test, student suspensions and arrests in schools; however, the police commissioner and the chancellor are appointed by the mayor. Is Walt Kelly correct: “We have met the enemy and he/she is us?”

Is mayoral control driving the political agenda of a mayor who is running for president?

Are police arrests in schools a problem or a creation of the mayor?

Don’t get me wrong, de Blasio has been a highly successful mayor, read Michelle Goldberg’s op ed in the NY Times, “Stop Sneering at Bill de Blasio” he shouldn’t have chosen to run for president

He can integrate schools by changing the entrance criteria for the over 200 screened schools, he can fund SHSAT prep programs in middle schools, he can support comprehensive high schools, schools admitting all level of students, by academic test scores to vocational and career and technical interests and work-study programs.

He has chosen a policy initiative that might “play well” with Afro-American and progressive voters

With the usual fanfare the mayor announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the police department, the city and the department of education (all city agencies) changing the role of police in the schools.

Every school has School Safety Officers (SSO) assigned to a school, the SSO’s are not police officers; however, they work under the supervision of the police department. Their duties range from checking in school visitors, to operating scanning in large high school buildings to monitoring school behavior within a school building in cooperation with school personnel. Police officers may be assigned to schools with a history of dangerous behaviors.

School MUST report all “incidents” in a school.

The Behavioral Expectation document, know as the School Discipline Code is an extremely detailed 35-page compilation of levels of inappropriate behaviors, every incident, whether or not it results in a suspension must be entered into the Department data base.

Supports and interventions are an integral part of a comprehensive response to misconduct. Schools are required to provide and document support services at all stages of the disciplinary process, including during suspension. When used consistently and appropriately, interventions help improve student behavior, lower the incidence of repeated misbehavior, and contribute to a more positive school environment. Support services may include any of the interventions or a combination of services that best meet the needs of the individual student.

  Required Documentation: All interventions and supports provided to a student in response to behavioral incidents must be entered into the Suspensions and Office of Hearings Online (SOHO) system, regardless of whether or not a disciplinary action is imposed.

 How common is it for a school leader to call 911? To request police presence in a school? How common is it for a SSO request that the police restrain or arrest a student?

The absence of any data relating to the question supra leads to suspicion: is the issue created by the mayor?

The MOU lists specific behavior not subject to  SSO or uniformed NYPD actions: how often do school personnel call the police for the behaviors listed below?

The parties agree that school personnel should not call upon SSO personnel and/or uniformed members of the NYPD to address or respond to non-criminal, minor misconduct. Such misconduct may include, but is not limited to, the following behaviors: 1) behaving in a manner which disrupts the educational process (e. g., making excessive noise); 2) failing to wear the required uniform; 3) cutting classes; 4) lateness to school or classes; 5) unexcused absence from school; 6) engaging in a rude or disrespectful behavior; 7) wearing clothing or headgear or other items that are unsafe or disruptive to the education process; 8) smoking and or the use of electronic cigarettes and/or possession of matches or lighters; 9) using school computers, fax machines, telephones, and/or other electronic equipment or devices without appropriate authorization; 11) lying to, giving false information, to, or, otherwise misleading school personnel; 12) misusing property belonging to others


The parties agree that SSO personnel and uniformed members of the NYPD shall utilize, whenever possible, diversionary responses and protocols in lieu of arresting or issuing a summons to a student. In particular, school-based low level school based offenses, such as those listed below, on a case by case basis; be eligible for diversion, when feasible:

  • low level marijuana possession;
  • disorderly conduct;
  • consumption of alcohol;
  • trespass;
  • harassment;
  • spitting in public;
  • graffiti; and
  • other low level offenses that may be safely handled by school administration

The list of behaviors vary from trivial to serious.

 Read the entire fifteen page MOU here.

While the MOU refers to a Leadership Team: school leaders, school deans and classroom teachers appear unaware of the MOU creation process. The teacher and supervisory union does not appear to have had any role in the MOU creation process and are not signatories. There was no period for public comment or a public hearing.

A crucial rule: participation reduces resistance.

I called around, to school leaders and teachers;

“It’s insulting, I’ve never called the police and we try hard, very hard, to disabuse students of engaging in inappropriate behavior.”

“Is this a joke? Who would call the police every time a kid committed one of the listed infractions; this is ludicrous.”

“I speak with the precinct regularly, we share information, they tell me if something happened in the streets that may spill over into school and I inform them if the kids tell me about some gang activity. Are they discouraging our cooperation?”

“Maybe they’re referring to charter schools? We enter everything into the online reporting system; we’ve never had a kid arrested due to minor school infractions.”

The data is readily available: how many students are arrested in schools and for what charge?

Unintended consequences: Will SSOs, NYPD and school-based pedagogical personnel back away from responding to low level infractions for fear of violating the MOU? What is a “diversion”? Who determines “non-criminal misconduct?” and many more questions.

I worked with a superintendent who constantly reminded staff, “Order precedes learning,” and, I will add, “Effective instruction leads to order.”

A Memorandum clarifying the roles of pedagogical and school safety personnel is important, the MOU released by the mayor; unfortunately, falls short.

Suspensions should be a step in a ladder of discipline, beginning with effective classroom instruction, up the ladder to guidance/counseling provided by school staff, the use of positive behavior intervention strategies and on to a principal level suspension, actually an extended “time out” including a parent conference. Arrest is an extreme response.

A superintendent suspension, more than five days in an offsite suspension center, for serious misconduct; a weapon, a fight, gang activity, etc, all spelled out in minute detail in the Discipline Code, and, a hearing conducted by a hearing officer, who also determines the length of the suspension.

Do suspensions work?  Do suspensions “correct” inappropriate behaviors?  Are “diversions” more effective than suspensions? Do suspensions improve the outcomes for the other students in the class?

If school is practice for life after school ignoring serious misconduct is failing our students. How do you address serious misconduct?

Controversial questions, with deep feelings on both sides of the question.

Racism, White Privilege, Charter Schools, Equity, Economic Inequality: Is There a Pathway Out of Generational Poverty?

After centuries of brutal race-based slavery, a civil war, 600,000 fatalities the ‘13th Amendment ended slavery (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”), the 14th Amendment granted equal rights to all Americans (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, … are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) .and 15th Amendment gave former slaves the right to vote (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”).

Sadly, with the abandonment of Reconstruction, the imposition of Jim Crow laws and Supreme Court decisions the rights and freedoms that were guaranteed by the new amendments to the constitution were stripped away, peonage replaced slavery.

Incredibly a hundred years passed before the nation began to implement the dreams of the civil war constitutional amendments.

The Lyndon Johnson “Great Society” War On Poverty included a Voting Rights Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Social Security Acts, which created Medicare and Medicaid, the Food Stamp Act and the Public Accommodation Act; the nation was righting wrongs that had sidetracked the constitutional amendments passed a century earlier.

The Great Society, in spite of high expectations, failed to end poverty, and failed to end centuries of racism.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his 1965 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, commonly called the Moynihan Report acknowledged the impact of racism; however, points to the black family structure,

The Moynihan Report generated considerable controversy and has had long-lasting and important influence. Writing to Lyndon Johnson, Moynihan argued that without access to jobs and the means to contribute meaningful support to a family, black men would become systematically alienated from their roles as husbands and fathers, which would cause rates of divorce, child abandonment and out-of-wedlock births to skyrocket in the black community (a trend that had already begun by the mid-1960s), leading to vast increases in the numbers of households headed by females and the higher rates of poverty, lower educational outcomes, and inflated rates of child abuse that are allegedly associated with these factors

 Moynihan was excoriated by many, especially in the progressive and Afro-American communities and praised by those on the right.

William Julius Wilson, the Afro-American sociologist, in the Declining Significance of Race  ,(1978) argued that economic factors drove the failure of Afro-Americans to break away from the cycle of poverty.

… the original argument, as outlined in The Declining Significance of Race, was not that race is no longer significant or that racial barriers between blacks and whites have been eliminated. Rather, in comparing the contemporary situation of African Americans to their situation in the past, the diverging experiences of blacks along class lines indicate that race is no longer the primary determinant of life chances for blacks (in the way it had been historically).

Moynihan and Wilson were rejected by a new generation of scholars who saw racism, often times masked by implicit bias and white privilege; and, the new research collectively is referred to as Critical Race Theory,

CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.  CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.

 The current deBlasio/Carranza equity for all agenda is heavily influenced by Critical Race Theory as well as the state adoption of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,

The most impactful changes in education and anti-poverty initiatives came from the richest Americans, Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, and others who backed up their ideas with many millions and political clout. Nick Hanuaer, in the July, Atlantic penned an amazing article,

 I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America …

For Hanauer the answers were simple,

 I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored …

Hanuer had an apotheosis,

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income …

 All of which suggests that income inequality has exploded not because of our country’s educational failings but despite its educational progress. Make no mistake: Education is an unalloyed good. We should advocate for more of it, so long as it’s of high quality. But the longer we pretend that education is the answer to economic inequality, the harder it will be to escape our new Gilded Age …

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, …  by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less.

The democratic candidates, especially Elizabeth Warren point to economic inequality as a root cause of generational poverty and the remainder of the candidates, to one degree or another, agree.

Booker and O’Rourke have charter school roots, Bernie criticized charters and Biden has always been close to teacher unions.

Some of us hoped that with the election of Obama we were entering a post racial era, as the election of Trump has shown us we are far, far away from a post racial world.

Anti-poverty programs had high expectations, unfulfilled expectations.

The gap between the 1% and the 99% has widened and continues to widen.

There are no magic bullets, charter schools, vouchers: the agenda of super rich, attacking public schools and treating schools as competitive units in a capitalistic world is a failure.

Critical Race Theory is hotly debated in academia, and, in the laboratory of the New York City school system is greeted with suspicion.

Pockets of generational poverty in Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and New York City persist over generations.

I was talking with teachers in a high poverty school plagued by generations of poverty.

One of the teachers opined, “We love our kids,” another laughed and added, “Well, most of them.”

“Kids come late, are absent, parents seem unconcerned, use kids to baby-sit other kids, to do the laundry, allow them to stay home and watch TV all day and the parents bicker among themselves.”

“They don’t trust ‘the system,’ they’re been living off some type of social service for a lifetime; for far too many kids dysfunction is the standard,”

“We need social workers, guidance counselors, a nurse, a health clinic, job training, we have none of it.”

“The rules are different, if a kids hits you, hit them back, the rules of the street, we’re part of the community and try and teach the kids another set of rules.”

“This is where I belong, kids do ‘get out,’ we promise them a better life; we can’t promise them a job,”

Examples of white privilege? Implicit bias? All the teachers were Afro-American.

Teachers save lives, teachers are heroes and teachers cannot thwart centuries of racism: at the end of the pathway kids need jobs and schools alone cannot substitute for economic deprivation.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens

Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR): Evaluating Chancellor Richard Carranza

Chancellor Richard Carranza is completing his first full year as the leader of the New York City school system.

How has he done? Is he Highly Effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective?

New York City is a mayoral control city; the chancellor, the leader of the school system functions as the deputy mayor for education, he is responsible to the mayor although technically selected by a school board, the majority of whom are appointed by the mayor.

On one hand the mayor and the chancellor are on the same page, a positive, on the other hand the chancellor must implement the political agenda of the mayor, politics may trump (excuse the term) education.

To further complicate the mayor is running for president, one of the twenty plus candidates who is attempting to separate himself from his contenders.

20% of voters in the democratic primaries are Afro-American and another 20% are “progressive” voters: will the mayor’s educational agenda attract Afro-American and progressive voters in the primaries? The mayor has to reach thresholds to be part of the debate process that begins in a few weeks and one could argue that much of what is happening in New York City is part of an national political strategy.

Is the de Blasio/Carranza equity agenda at the core of the de Blasio presidential primary run?

The equity agenda (peruse Carranza’s tweets) has dominated the news cycle, from sharply criticizing the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the 23 million dollar system-wide anti-bias training, to the Diversity Advisory Group Task Force Report.

Months after the February release of the Report the Mayor accepted almost all of the recommendations.

The overwhelming percentage of news coverage has dealt with aspects of the equity agenda.

It seems like every week there is an announcement or a response to an equity issue, the anti-bias training was both sharply criticized and supported; (I blogged about the issue here): whether you favor or oppose is it worth $23 million?   Would the dollars be better spent improving mathematics instruction in the elementary schools?

One could argue that Carranza is a “good soldier” carrying out the agenda of an ambitious mayor?

At the core of the mayor’s agenda is working with the teacher union. The union is a political force in the city as well as nationally. The AFT president, Randy Weingarten, has hosted widely advertised town hall meetings with teachers with the leading candidates, and, the de Blasio achievements: Pre-K for All, Community Schools and two widely praised union contracts with highly collaborative contract initiatives are attractive to teachers across the country.

Carranza, to his credit, clearly feels comfortable working with Michael Mulgrew, the union president; at Sunday’s Puerto Rico Day Parade he joined the UFT delegation for the entire parade.

The Bronx Plan, a highly collaborative initiative to embed best practices into the lowest achieving schools, not like the widely criticized Renewal program, the Bronx Plan is a close collaboration between the department and the union.

There is concerning dark side.

Decisions that impact students should be made by school leaders and teachers, the folks closest to the kids. How do you deconstruct a school system into many smaller school systems?

The affinity networks, in the last few years of the Bloomberg mayoralty, in my view, were a positive step. Carranza moved in the opposite direction, adding another layer of management, executive superintendents, moving the chancellor further away from classrooms.

Special Education remains a disaster, students unserved and/or underserved with delays in evaluation and placement commonplace. This is a longstanding problem that has gotten worse under Carranza.

Is Carranza working on a curriculum? Why do schools use dozens of different reading programs?  Is middle management; namely, principals, as collaborative as the chancellor?  And, if not, why not?

Are superintendents in schools every day?  Meeting with teachers and parents? Attending school leadership team meetings?

I hope so ….

On the education side the school system appears to be adrift. Why can’t I click and find the 4th grade mathematics curriculum? Or, the curriculum for any grade?  Why are Community Education Councils (CECs) powerless? The CEC meetings are virtually unattended, with many vacant seats? The only exception: integration zoning issue meetings.

How would I rate Carranza?   As a chancellor working in a mayoral control climate: very effective, as the leader of a school system, disappointing; I would rate him as “developing.”

Will Mandatory Anti-Bias Training Eliminate or Increase Implicit Bias’?

It was the first session of a graduate education class; I introduced myself and asked an icebreaker question: “Take a few minutes and write your philosophy of education,” everybody busily scribbled away except Muhammad, who was Afro-American, an adult convert to Islam and had been a biochemist at a major company. I called on Mohammad first: “All white people are racist, what matters is their ability to deal with their racism.”  I switched my plans and asked the students to respond to Mohammad. Some were outraged, “How can you call me a racist? You’ve never even met me,” Another student, “I grappling with this question, I’m a white guy from the suburbs, and how can I relate to students of color?”

It was an interesting term.

Race was the subtext of many conversations.

If kids are not connected to a lesson how do you know it and how do you respond?   A major theme was if you want to change outcomes you have to change inputs, you have to be able to adjust your teaching to the needs of the kids if you want to change the behaviors of the kids. You have to get beyond preconceived notions, bias.

If you assign easier texts, assign below grade level work, is that an appropriate response or is that an implicit bias?

Should you assign “culturally relevant” texts or texts that resonate with the kids? Or, both?

I asked a few high school teachers what texts the kids like best; one told me “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Tennessee Williams?  She said yes, the kids loved reading about really, really dysfunctional white people. Another teacher taught Robert W Service poems “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, which he described as “white hip-hop,” and asked the kids to write their own hip-hop in the same meter.

Another teacher averred, “I’m a good teacher; the kids simply don’t care.” The teacher was Nigerian.

Race and ethnicity are complicated.

While the New York City school system may be 40% Latinx; the kids come from many Spanish speaking nations with very different cultures. Teachers from the Caribbean are culturally very different from kids they teach from Brooklyn.

The decision to require that over the next few years all teachers will participate in Implicit Bias or perhaps called Anti-Bias Training makes a key assumption: that the training will reduce bias, however you define the term, and improve outcomes for students.

Chalkbeat, the education news website interviewed teachers, the results were mixed.

  • , New York City teachers have had divergent responses to anti-bias training.Most of the 70 or so teachers and staff who responded to a Chalkbeat survey say they found the five-hour training useful. A teacher at a school in the South Bronx said it was helpful to have group discussions about data showing how students of color have been “over-policed” compared to white students. But others raised concerns. Another administrator thought the session had only succeeded in creating “resentment” and would cause her to “second guess every decision I make.”

The New York Post interviewed teachers who sharply criticized the training, finding it insulting, and for a few, anti-Semitic.

A core question: does anti-bias training actually reduce bias?

A recent article in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science  “Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Message,” warns,

 “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” [The author] continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

]The author]stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

The New York Post article led to an op ed sharply critical of the chancellor and a lengthy response   from Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and at NYU, Kirkland wrote,

When institutions such as schools, that wield powerful influence over the lives of children, are not anti-biased, they are unequivocally dangerous. Thus, we recognize the need for educators to (1) become aware of the manifestations of racism and privilege in our own lives, in the systems we create and support, and in our cultures, (2) work together in community to dismantle and reorganize the systems that support racism and privilege, (3) actively support each other and our families to acknowledge, honor, and appreciate differences, and (4)  incorporate anti-bias education at every level of American education.

 David’s predecessor at the Center, Pedro Noguera has doubts,

Pedro Noguera‏ @PedroANoguera 5h5 hours ago

Many were surprised when I expressed skepticism about the value of anti-bias training. I do believe racial bias is real and pervasive. I don’t believe you can be trained out of it unless you are open to unlearning it. To me, addressing structural inequities is far more important.

If you want to check out the training itself the website describes the training, which compressed a six month course into a five hour training.

We all have inherent bias,’ some we’re aware of and struggle to overcome, some are subconscious, and some we just live with.

Police officers shoot innocent Afro-Americans who they see as threatening, Afro-Americans may see Jews as “good with money,” and on and on. As teachers we have to acknowledge bias, on our part and on the part of the children we teach and their parents.

We have to move beyond, we have to deal with students one by one, and we have to seek out the trigger, seek out that path that leads the student to maximize their talents and beyond.

Staffs that include a wide range of races and ethnicities allow us to learn from each other and encourage us to use each other to maximize our collective talents, and, to move beyond our bias.’

The New York State Legislature, Charter Schools and the “Big Ugly:” A Lesson in Civics (aka, Realpolitics)

Realpolitics: political realism or practical politics especially based on power as well as on ideals.

Why is politics so contentious? Why can’t people get along? Why is everything so partisan?

I can also ask why don’t Mets and Yankee fans get along. Giant and Jets fans?

Politics is contentious, sports are contentious, factions are part of human nature and factions can be passionate.

In Federalist # 10 Madison wrote,

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice

 Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

 Madison acknowledges that factions are at the heart of a democracy,

 Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

Faction, while at the heart of a democracy, can be destructive, one remedy, autocracy, destroys democracy.

We should be teaching students that ideals should drive policy; however, different people have different ideals and different paths to achieving their goals. Passion can be constructive or destructive.

New York State politics is contentious: Republicans versus Democrats, the governor versus the legislature, and Democrats versus Democrats; to the average voter the process seems frustrating, partisan and driven by lobbyist dollars.

The New York State legislature is in the home stretch with a crowded agenda. The legislature meets from January till mid June with two key periods, the days leading up to the April 1 budget deadline and the last few days of the session, referred to as “The Big Ugly,” the last few days when “this” is traded for “that,” For decades, with a brief interlude, Republicans have controlled the Senate and Democrats the Assembly. For twelve years a Republican sat in the governor’s perch (Pataki) and the last eight years Andrew Cuomo. The “three men in a room” made the deals. At the budget deadline the leverage was with the governor and he crammed in whatever he could, the courts granted the governor wide discretion in establishing budget parameters. (Read here).

Prior to the 2018 election Republicans controlled the Senate, and, in the final days, of the budget or the end of session, the “big ugly,” the Republicans used their leverage to pass charter friendly legislation, for example, in exchange for extending mayoral control in New York City. The charter school political committees (PACs) pumped dollars into key races, the Republicans won and “returned the favor.”

In the November, 2018 elections the Democrats swept Republican seats, the very seats that received support from the charter school PACs.

The leverage moved from the Republicans to the Democrats.

The key charter school issue is the charter cap in New York City. The law sets a cap on the number of charter schools and the cap has been reached

The City and State website  speculates over whether the governor supports raising the cap.

… the [charter school PACs] long-standing allies in the state Senate Republican conference are out of power; Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently revived the issue. “We support raising this artificial cap,” Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s spokesman, told the New York Post in mid-April. “But the Legislature needs to agree as well.”

Despite Cuomo’s support, charter school proponents face resistance from teachers unions and many Democratic lawmakers who want to leave the cap unchanged. The issue is “not even on the radar screen,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said recently, according to North Country Public Radio.

Within the last few days the New York State of Politics blog quotes the governor as outlining 10 issues for the end of session and charter schools are not among his priorities.

The leverage has shifted.

An election two weeks ago for a vacant City Council seat may bear on Albany politics. Interim elections to fill vacant seats are non-partisan, no party designations, and New York City matches contribution 8 to 1 .

In an election with numerous candidates the UFT, the teacher union supported a candidate. Farrah Louis who was not favored; however, her educational positions were in line with the positions of the union. She defeated a candidate endorsed by the former City Council member, Jumaane Williams, who is snow the Public Advocate.

The “lesson” is not lost; fighting with the union will have consequences.

Not only will the charter school cap not be lifted it is possible legislation hostile to charter schools may be folded into the “big ugly.”

A few bills dealing with the reauthorization of charter schools and the auditing of charter schools have just been introduced.

Factions will advocate, seek allies, lobby electeds and as the adjournment date, June 19th approaches totally disparate bills will be linked, factions will find “friends,” at least for the moment.

Elections have consequences, charter PAC dollars “elected” Republicans who used their leverage to pass charter friendly legislation; an election cycle later Democrats defeated the charter PAC endorsed candidates, elections have consequences, the leverage switched, and, we can expect that legislation more friendly to teacher unions and public school advocates may become law.

Madison reminded us governmental systems must control themselves, and competing factions are a control.

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices [checks and balances] should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

 Ideals, factions and politics and  are part of our contentious democracy.

Is the Adversity Score a Tool for Acknowledging Poverty (as a surrogate for race) in College Admissions or a Tool to Enrich the SAT?

About ten years ago I sat in a room with a group of principals and watched/listened to David Coleman’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” kickoff of the Common Core.

At the end of the presentation a teacher in the audience commented, “We’re already using these strategies: what’s new?” Coleman snapped back, “If that’s the case why are our kids doing so poorly?”

I knew we were in trouble.

States adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), tests were aligned with the CCSS, instruction was measured by CCSS and we all anticipated achievement to begin to move up the ladder – we’re still waiting:  NAEP scores remain flat and in New York State test scores are still mired in the lower half of states

The Organization for Education, Co-Operation and Development (OECD) takes a deep dive into reading instruction across the OECD nations, “Measuring Innovation in Education: 2019,” and reports,

It turns out that over 90 percent of U.S. teachers were already regularly doing these Common Core-endorsed practices back in 2006 … for all the Common Core-induced hoopla—there was little obvious change in U.S. practice, while other nations actually spent 2006-2016 doing more of what the U.S. was already doing back in the Bush years.

 Turns out that teacher in the audience was correct.

 I’ve always wondered why ED Hirsch’s Core Knowledge has never caught on, a rich curriculum and high level of instruction in a collaborative environment is the path to student growth. The CCSS and the top down rigid implementation, in my view were doomed to failure.

A decade later another David Coleman “innovation,” the Adversity Index,

The adversity score will be a number ranging from 1 to 100, calculated from 15 factors such as neighborhood crime rates and poverty levels. A score of 50 will be the average; scores above 50 reflect increasing levels of hardship, and scores below indicate higher degrees of privilege. SAT officials indicated that students would not be informed of their adversity scores, but colleges will have access to them as they make admission decisions.

We know that the college admissions process is subject to abuse, the recent scandal: payoffs to get kids into desirable colleges extends far beyond the fifty families cited by the authorities; I believe an example of the “iceberg effect

Colleges are increasingly abandoning the SAT or making SAT scores optional, and the SAT is seeking other sources of revenue.

The adversity score might be attractive to colleges who want to increase student diversity without risking law suits over racially-based admissions policy, and, for the College Board, make up for the income lost due to fewer and fewer schools using the SAT.

Am I cynical? Yes, and, the criticism of the new adversity score tool is widespread,

This “overall disadvantage level” will appear on something the College Board (parent company of the SAT) is calling an “environmental context dashboard.” It incorporates demographic and census data to profile high school students …

Though there are a near infinitude of ways both explicit and subtle to experience challenges in life, the adversity index will restrict itself to just three categories: neighborhood environment (including factors like crime and poverty rates and housing values); family environment (the income, education and marriage status of parents and whether they speak English); and high school environment (aspects like the free lunch rate and rigor of the curriculum).

 The Daily Beast is not only suspicious of Coleman; they criticize the tool as a “retrograde notion that institutionalizes anti-affirmative action views,”

 … like the test-based accountability movement in which David Coleman also played a key role as the moving force behind the Common Core standards, the Index’s single quantitative score is likely to crowd out other important information from admissions assessments. The absence of race and ethnicity has already been widely noted. This decision not only ignores a highly consequential characteristic recognized even by the Supreme Court as a valid diversity factor but also signifies the College Board’s acquiescence to color-blind public policies, a particularly retrograde notion that institutionalizes anti-affirmative action views

 If you want to take a deeper dive into how the adversity score works read Dana Goldstein in the NY Times here.

 I view the adversity score as a way of side-stepping the sensitive question of race and at the same time increasing revenue for the College Board.

I know an Afro-American male, an athlete, who attended a prestigious Division 3 school (no athletic scholarships). He was one of only a handful of black, male students at the college. Other students constantly referred to him “he’s only here because he’s an athlete, and with a scholarship,” both black and an athlete. He wasn’t shy, he responded, “Yes, I’m on a scholarship, provided by my parents, there’s only one of them.”

The adversity score may only succeed in stigmatizing students by race.

The question we should be asking is why some poor students succeed in college and afterwards and why others stumble?  Is it the inadequacy of the school systems that failed to prepare the students, or successfully prepared students? Is the quality of the education at the colleges?

Raj Chetty and his team at Harvard explored the question of economic income mobility, economic diversity and student outcomes. The study used millions of anonymous tax records from college graduates.

Of the 369 “selective public colleges” The City College of New York (CCNY) had the highest economic mobility (Baruch College was # 2)

Overall mobility index

This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at City College of New York moved up two or more income quintiles.

1st out of 369 Selective public colleges

Why are students from City College so successful? Are our public schools far better than we think? Is the college itself providing the instruction and supports?

Students enter the college with poverty level family incomes and a decade after graduation half the students had entered the middle class.

 The adversity score may identify students of color, or, give an advantage to gentrifiers living in changing neighborhoods, or, provide a tool for establishing a quota without mentioning race.

Using “big data” to create an adversity score is a waste of effort, the Chetty use of “big data” is far more meaningful. We have a pretty good idea of why children of color struggle in under resourced schools: a core question: why do some succeed?

Some would argue grit and perseverance: are these “teachable” qualities? Others would argue a rich curriculum, or, a culturally relevant pedagogy, or teachers of color.

Let’s keep investigating.