The Ultimate Troubling Question: Will you Campaign and Vote for Bloomberg against Trump? (Nose-holding permissable)

I was at a celebration of The City College (CCNY) at the Center for Jewish History, a packed auditorium, panels about the college from the 30’s to the 60’s, and, Sid Davidoff, one of the closest advisors to former mayor John Lindsay was one of the panelists. I started to talk with him and led off by saying we crossed path during the teacher strike in ’68; he turned away and rushed down the hallway. It was the teacher union that derailed Lindsay’s run for the White House in 1972.

John Lindsay, a progressive, Rockefeller Republican, btw, an extinct breed, was both exalted and despised as mayor (1965-73).

Lindsay was elected mayor to 1965, cities were on fire!!  Riots in Los Angeles, Detroit and Newark, troops and tanks in the streets, the nation seemed on the verge of another civil war.

The Watts riots in Los Angeles (August 11 to 16, 1965); 34 deaths and 1.032 injuries.

The Detroit riot, known as the “Detroit Rebellion,” (July 23 – 28, 1967) was one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history.  Governor George Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit to help end the disturbance. President Lyndon Johnson sent in the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed...

The scale of the uprising was the worst in the United States since the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War.

There were 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967.”  The Newark riot, July 12-17, 1967 resulted in 26 deaths and 727 injuries.

New York City danced around the chaos that was enveloping cities; we’ll never know whether Lindsay’s policies averted riots in New York City.

Two sociologists at Columbia University, Richard Andrew Cloward and his wife  Frances Fox Piven postulated an “answer,” referred to as the Cloward- Piven Strategy,  “…forcing political change through orchestrated crisis;” a strategy adopted by Lindsay and his team.

Lindsay, with support from the Ford Foundation, created three demonstration school districts with elected governing boards (I lived in one of the districts, “Two Bridges,” and attended the rambunctious meetings). In the spring,1968, one of the governing board “fired” a group of white teachers, the Board of Education and the mayor took no action, a grinding contentious strike lasted two months (See Martin Mayer, The Teacher Strike,1968 and Dana Goldstein The Teacher Wars, 2014, and, of course, Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars, 1973.

In my view Lindsay saw “creating” a racially charged confrontation with two goals, satisfying the “demands” of activists and disempowering an aggressive union.

The riots that engulfed cities never reached New York City; however, as Lindsay tried to move to the next step, a run for the White House, he was derailed by New Yorkers, clearly influenced by the corrosive, racially-charged teacher strike.

… residual anger against Lindsay from transplanted New Yorkers in Florida was symbolized by the presence of an airplane flying over the Miami beaches as Lindsay was campaigning below. The plane was hired by a former New Yorker, and the banner read: “Lindsay Spells Tsuris,” the Yiddish word for trouble.

After the defeat, Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito put the final nail in Lindsay’s campaign by announcing: “Little Sheba better come home.” The humbled mayor did return home to finish out the remainder of his mayoralty, but his political career was over.

 In the 70’s the union began an oral history project, interviews with union leaders and others involved in the creation of the union, the only person who refused to participate was John Lindsay.

Three decades later anotherRockefeller Republcan was running for office.

The mayoral election in 2001 was unique; the attack on the Twin Towers took place on the 9/11, the same day as the Democratic primary. The primary was voided and postponed, in the rescheduled primary no candidate received 40% of the vote, a runoff three weeks later,  the exhausted Democratic candidate was defeated by the political novice, Mike Bloomberg.

Bloomberg’s first initiative, with support of the teacher union, ran up to Albany, and ended decentralization of schools, mayoral control: the mayor was fully responsible for educational policy and the day-to-day operation of schools. Bloomberg selected a lawyer, a litigator with absolutely no education credentials as chancellor.

Bloomberg began by working with the union, in the 2005 and 2007 teacher contracts sharply increased: teacher salalry increases of over 40%; and, yes, there union agreed to an extended school day and ended the seniority transfer plan.

Bloomberg increasingly challenged the union; he closed 150 schools and opened 200 charter schools. Instead of placing teachers excessed from closing schools in regular school assignments he placed them in a pool, the Absent Teacher Reserve, and to tried to emulate Chicago where teachers from closed schools were laid off if they couldn’t find a job, in other words, end tenure. The union fought back and thwarted Bloomberg.  The relationship continued to deteriorate, the number of unsatisfactory ratings increased three-fold, 40% of teachers up for tenure had their tenure extended.

An angry mayor became a vindictive mayor.

The union waited him out, in New York State public employee contracts that expire remain in effect until the successor contract is negotiated.  The successor mayor, Bill de Blasio has been extremely supportive of schools and teachers.

In November I blogged about a possible Bloomberg candidacy, “Can Bloomberg Win the  Democratic Nomination for President? Can Bloomberg Defeat Trump?

Three month later Bloomberg has jumped into the fetid pool

In a February 10th Qunnipiac poll, Bloomberg, without running in a single primary, is solidly in the mix with 15% in a national poll. RealClearPoltics lists polls across the upcoming primary states and Bloomberg is doing even better.

As his polling numbers rise so will the attacks, his steadfast support for “stop and frisk,” eventually found to be unconstitutional by the courts. His apparent defense of “redlining” and defense of bank foreclosures during the 2008 recessions, and, of course, his steadfast support of Eva Moskowitz and charter schools. Will these attacks resonate?Is Bloomberg “Tsuris?”

At the February teacher union (UFT) Delegate Assembly (about 1,000 elected school delegates who meet every month) a delegate, a supporter of Bernie, asked whether the union leadership was considering an endorsement. UFT Preisdent Mulgrew replied, with union members engaged in all the camps why discourage their advocacy, the union did make endorsements in local campaigns, endorsements widely supported by the delegates.

Perhaps teacher antipathy will, once again, derail a presidential campaign; on the other hand, with untold millions to spend, who knows?   Will the union make an endorsement before the April 28 New York State primary? (I am a delegate)

Will the Bloomberg candidacy glow, fade, and crash, and replcate the rising star/faded star of the Lindsay candidacy?

If not, and, the ultimate question: will you get out there vote for and campaign for Bloomberg against Trump?

Graduation Requirements: Should We Move the Bar Upwards?

Occasionally at the end of a class when a kid was leaving room s/he would say, “Gee Mr. G; that was really hard.” I smiled; I knew I was doing my job.

I knew if students came to my class every day, and stayed engaged, the Regents Examination would be a breeze.  In my first period class I would bring a box of donut holes, enough for half the class, first come, first served: I had surprisingly good attendance at 8 am.

The Board of Regents (BOR) and the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) are engaged in a lengthy review of high school graduation requirements, called Graduation Measures: view the webpage here.

Regional Meetings will be held across the state from now until April, see the date, time and location of the meetings here.

The format of the meetings will be tables of attendees, facilitated by the host district, discussing five questions. Read a thorough description of the process here,

The five questions:


  1. What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?


  1. How do we want students to demonstrate such knowledge and skills?


  1. How do you measure learning and achievement (as it pertains to the answers to #2 above) to ensure they are indicators of high school completion?


  1. How can measures of achievement accurately reflect the skills and knowledge of our special populations, such as students with disabilities and English language learners?


  1. What course requirements or examinations will ensure that students are prepared for college and careers or civic engagement?


Unfortunately the public debate has almost entirely dealt with Regents Examinations.

Should the exams be continued? Abolished? Reduced in importance? Should portfolios replace the exams? Should the exams be part of a composite grade, and, if so, how much should the exams count?

The five questions supra have pretty much been ignored.

I wrote supporting retaining Regents Examination here  as did Alan Singer here.

Marc Korashan, an experienced educator demurred here and, the former # 2 at the New York City Department of Education, Eric Nadelstern commented,

The single most devastating condemnation of American education is that our high schools haven’t changed since 1968 (or 1896 more likely). However, schools such as those in the Consortium have developed time-tested structures and instructional approaches for the past 35 years. It’s long overdue that we’ve finally decided to pay attention to our successes with an eye toward how these break the mold schools can infirm systemic secondary education reform.

What dies “break the mold” schools mean?

 Jeanette Deuterman, the leader of Long Island Opt Outs argues that Regents scores should be part of a composite score, and a minor part, she calls the process, “Do Not Harm.” (Read here)

I fear limiting the discussion to Regents Exams is short sighted. Is the primary goal to increase graduation rates or to prepare students for the world after high school?

We know that students who barely pass Regents do poorly in community colleges. The retention rates are abysmal. We also know that City College and Baruch, two CUNY schools lead the nation in moving students out of poverty into the middle class.(See Raj Chetty research here) and both entrance requirements and coursework are rigorous.

The My Brothers Keeper (MBK) initiative in  a number of unscreened Hudson Valley high schools have produced impressive results for Young Men of Color. (Read description of practices here).

Success in the MBK schools:  rigorous is instruction, access to advance coursework including Advanced Placement classes, in other words keeping  the bar high.

I fear we are edging towards moving the bar lower.

At a New York City Council hearing an invited guest asked, “Why did I have to take Algebra 1, I was never going to use it,” to applause from the audience.

As I review data on the New York State data portals and the New York City school performance dashboards fewer and fewer students move up ladder. After passing Algebra 1 fewer students take the Geometry Regents and fewer still take the Algebra 2 Regents. How many schools even offer pre-calculus, or, heaven forbid, Advanced Placement Math courses. The same can be said for science, after Living Environment fewer take Chemistry and very few take Physics, in fact, how many schools even offer Physics?  Do high schools offer Computer Science courses? How about basic computer skills, such as, Power Point, Excel and other basic computational skills?

Is Accounting offered in any high schools?

The debate should move away from the narrow discussions about the future of Regents Examinations and move to the first question at the Regional Meeting,

What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?

A just released research paper from Education Next, “End the ‘Easy A’: Tougher grading standards set more students up for success might move us in a better direction.

Seth Gershenson writes,

My results confirm that “everyone gets a gold star” is not a victimless mentality. Not only do students learn more from tougher teachers, but they also do better in math classes up to two years later. The size of these effects is on the order of replacing an average teacher with one near the top of her game.

 Parents faced with stressed-out children and an increasingly competitive college-admissions process may resist calls for more-rigorous grading. Educators and school leaders may be tempted to satisfy them, which is part of how the grade-inflation problem was created to begin with. But policymakers and other decision-makers would deserve a genuine A if they reminded parents, principals, and teachers that they aren’t doing students any favors by depriving them of appropriate academic challenges or an accurate picture of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

It’s twenty-five years since we discussed graduation requirements: we better get it right!



      Marc Korashan

This is an important starting point for a discussion of the broader question, what does a high school diploma mean? What do we expect high school students to be able to do after they graduate; use algebra to solve problems, write a research paper on a topic of their choosing; read and analyze texts from a variety of literary forms; speak or read a foreign language; be able to participate knowledgeably in the political process, or some other skills related to the expectations of a twenty-first century workplace heavily dependent of computer skills.

The basic curriculum has not changed over the many years since I graduated from high school in 1968. The specific content, the range of historical events, the required readings in English, and the depth of scientific knowledge have changed, of course, but the overall shape of the curriculum hasn’t.

Do we spend time teaching students facts (that they are not terribly interested in) and how to answer multiple choice questions, or do we teach them to challenge their thinking, to research in depth to understand what history teaches us about the present and how to use mathematics to solve meaningful problems in their daily lives (not two trains colliding but the kind of math we encounter in the real world al “Freakonomics”?

I am a product (as is Ed) of a Regents oriented high school curriculum. In fact, I was told that anything less than a ninety on the Geometry regents would result in my failing the course regardless of the grades earned on tests and homework assignments during it. I didn’t do poorly enough to test that proposition, but it was close. The issue is not the exam but what the exam requires of the students and whether they are held to strict and meaningful standards.

The essay question that Ed includes is a meaningful one that gives students a chance to demonstrate their knowledge of American History, government, and their organizational and writing skills. It requires many skill sets to be answered well within a constrained time period. Students who struggle with anyone of those skills will struggle with the question even if they know the material and could respond well to it given more time, access to a computer or to materials to help refresh their memory. Do we really have to know all the facts about the context of the adoption of a particular amendment to pass, or is knowing how to research and construct a meaningful and accurate response to the problem a more appropriate measure of the kind of skills that will be needed in college or career?

We need more discussion along these lines and a need to take a deeper look at the Consortium Schools and whether graduation by portfolio and performance is a more meaningful measure of accomplishment and, if so, what it will require of us in reorganizing high schools.

Comments encouraged


The Responsibilty of Teaching Students to Become “Engaged Capable Voters”and the Slippery Slope

Why am I writing about elections and polling?

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision requires New York State to provide a “sound basic education,” and, goes on to define the term;

… sound basic education should consist of skills necessary to enable children to eventually function productively as civic participants capable of voting and serving on a jury. Productive citizenship means more than just being qualified to vote or serve as a juror, but to do so capably and knowledgeably. It connotes civic engagement. An engaged, capable voter needs the intellectual tools to evaluate complex issues, such as campaign finance reform, tax policy, and global warming, to name only a few. Ballot propositions in New York City, … can require a close reading and a familiarity with the structure of local government

Are we working towards enabling our students to become “engaged, capable voters” and provide them with the “intellectual tools to evaluate complex issues?”

If we stay within the confines of required courses and examination preparation, the answer isprobably not. We should set aside time  to use the presidential election process as a teaching tool.

The nation is currently engaged in the candidate selection process, a primary process, the process is complex, lengthy, and, influenced by polling: who is “winning?” who is “losing?” with little explanation of the mechanics of polling.

We’re a week away (February 3rd) from the Iowa caucus, the first chance for voters to cast a ballot, followed by the New Hampshire primary a week later (February 11th), the Nevada, (February 22), South Carolina (February 29) and Super Tuesday primaries, fourteen primaries on March 3rd, including two of the most delegate rich states, California and Texas.  (New York State is April 28th).

What are the pros and cons of the current selection process?  Weighing “everyone gets to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice” versus “losers are angry and don’t participate in the general election.”

A Siena/NY Times poll has Sanders leading, the Des Moines Register endorsed Warren, an Emerson College poll had Biden leading: Why are the polls bouncing around? What does that tiny plus/minus numbers at the bottom of the poll numbers mean?

On the cusp of Clinton-Trump election I wrote:

With a week to go in the race to the White House the polls seem to be bouncing all over the place. Nate Silver at the fivethirtyeight blog predicting a narrowing but substantial Hillary lead,  The RealClearPolitics blog predicts a closer race with 149 electoral votes up for grabs.

Pollsters haven’t been doing too well this year – pollsters predicted a “yes” vote in the Brixet vote, the no’s won, in the Columbia FARC plebiscite, once again, the pollster predict “yes, the vote came out “no.”

A poll is a photograph in time of a representative cohort of voters; the pollster identifies a “stratified, random sample” of expected voters. Anyone can purchase voting data, PrimeNY  is a company that sells voting data, and, you’d be amazed at the specificity of the data in the public space. The sample must mirror the voter pool, by gender, by ethnicity, by age, by education, etc., once the pool is established how do you contact voters: land line, cell phone, online?  How many younger voters have landlines?  How many younger voters live on their Apple watch?  Do you glance at your phone and if you don’t know the number let it go to voice mail?

At the bottom of the polling data you should find the error of measurement,  plus/minus signs and a number; the error of measurement. If the error of measurement, for instance,  is +/- 4% it means that a 52-48% lead is actually a statistical tie, a term you rarely hear from the commentators.

I owe the following discussion to Howard Wainer, one of our leading experts on statistics,

Pollsters identify a pool, a subset that reflects the larger population to be polled. We used to call the subset a stratified, random sample, a microcosm of the total population to be polled. The issue is the non-response rate which is gigantic. In a world of cell phones, potential responders can easily choose whether or not to answer a call. The non-response rate erodes the accuracy of the poll.

You get the idea — the point of polls is to use the outcome of polls to predict the outcome we care about. But if polls are unreliable we must find more reliable (but still efficacious) predictors. Perhaps tweets help, but there are other options. In the future, if people continue to not answer phones, these alternative approaches will become the norm.

Traditional polling is increasingly shaky, you glance at your phone, if you can’t identify the number you ignore it, if it is an 800 or an 888 number you ignore it. Pollsters are dependent on responses, who answers the phone?  Older voters with more time? Who doesn’t answer the phone? Have you programmed your phone to only accept specific numbers?  If non-responses are gigantic traditional telephone-based polling is both inaccurate, and, not the best way to predict outcomes.

Yes, Twitter or Nielson or Facebook may provide better ways of predicting outcomes.

Wainer concluded his remarks,

Although it is well known that being a statistician means never having to say you’re certain (nothing in life is ever better than 3 to 1), I feel safe in betting the farm on Hillary (regardless of the release of emails). And also a Democratic Senate.

No matter the expertise, statistics is an imperfect science.

I was teaching a Sociology class and decided to have the class construct and administer a survey of student attitudes, and, taught lessons on statistics. Every survey form asked for gender, race and a few other identifying data and we created a pool, a “stratified, random sample” of poll participants.

We invited the principal to the class and a few students presented the results of the survey. The principal, not exactly happy, asked how did they know that the survey reflected the attitudes of the entire school; the student survey leaders taught the principal a lesson in statistics.

The primaries select delegates to the Democratic National Convention held in mid July; the delegates will select the candidate. If no candidate has a majority by July the candidates will continue to cast ballots until a candidate emerges.  The 1924 Democratic National Convention, held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, was the longest continuously running convention in United States political history. It took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate.

“Brokered conventions,” meaning conventions at which no candidate has a majority on the first ballot are unusual, the last was in 1952. With three candidates currently in a virtual tie (Sanders, Warren and Biden) and Buttigieg and Klobuchar close behind and Bloomberg spending tens of millions, one never knows.  After the first ballot delegates are free to cast ballots for any candidate.

This would be a wonderful term to be teaching American History. New York State requires a course entitled Participation in Government, what a term to teach it!

Teachers should steer clear of “taking sides,” kids would ask me, “Who are you voting for?”

I would explain my role is to make them knowledgeable voters; my candidate preference was not relevant.

On Teacher Lobby Day, held in March, the teacher union would bus hundreds of teachers to Albany to lobby for the issue of the moment. I would bring along a group of my students who had researched an issue that they selected, maybe school funding, and make a presentation to the legislators. The kids dressed in their finest, they were nervous, we practiced, and the legislators loved it. A few of them ended up with internships in the local offices of the legislators.

Nationwide voter turnout among younger voters was steadily dropping and surged in 2018.

In 1972, the first year 18- to 20-year-olds were allowed to vote, 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots. Only 43 percent of that age group voted in 2016 and just 16 percent turned out to vote in 2014.

The Census found that 36 percent of citizens ages 18-29 reported voting in last year’s midterm elections, jumping 16 percentage points since 2014 … and easily surpassing any midterm election since the 1980s.

I surmise that climate change, school shootings and enhanced role of social media engaged more younger voters.

Teaching about elections can be a slippery slope, principals and parents can accuse you of trying to “brainwash,” to unduly influence students. The First Amendment does not allow for teachers to have free rein on speech within the classroom. The courts have delineated “protected” and “unprotected” speech. I blogged about this topic in detail a number of years ago (Read here)

I believe as teachers we have a moral and ethical responsibility to pass along the torch of democracy to each generation we teach. A responsibility too often frowned on by the “powers” trying to maintain their position and authority.

One of the greatest teachers of all time, Socrates, was “brought up on charges” in Athens for corrupting the youth by teaching them to question authority (and sentenced to death).

He needed a union

Why I Support Keeping New York State Regents Examinations.

If you attended public high school in New York State you undoubtedly took regents examinations, tests that go back to the 1865 (See a history of regents examinations here) While the test format has changed over the years the current tests are content-based tests created by classroom teachers.

For decades the state offered a Regents diploma for college-bound students and a local diploma for others that required passing a far less difficult Regents Competency Test (RCT). After years of discussion, sparked by criticism of the limited skills required of RCT diploma graduates from the employer community, the state phased in a single Regents diploma in the mid-1990’s in an attempt to raise the skills of high school students, aka, to make them more college and career ready. (Admittedly a difficult to define term: more in future blogs)

Tests are used to assess student learning and to guide instruction; in order to change outputs you must change inputs. I was invited to sit in on a meeting in a public secondary school: Algebra 1 teachers had completed grading the regents exam and created an error matrix, the most common incorrect answers. The teachers were reviewing their own lesson plans: how could they change their lessons to more effectively address the underlying instructional issues?

Over my teaching career I “cut and pasted” questions from prior regents exams, a common practice. The questions are created by classroom teachers and reflect the state curriculum frameworks.

The New York State Social Studies K-12 Frameworks were created by teachers under the guidance of the State Education Department and revised every couple of years.

The Social Studies regents exams consist of fifty artfully crafted multiple choice questions, a document-based question and a thematic question.

Yes, forty small high schools, mostly in New York City, called the Performance-Based Assessment Consortium are designed so that the instruction leads to the creation of a portfolio and a year-long research project

Students must complete graduation-level written tasks and oral presentations, known as PBATs (performance-based assessment tasks), including an analytic essay on literature, a social studies research paper, an extended or original science experiment, and problem-solving at higher levels of mathematics. Students must also take and pass the NYS English Language Arts Regents exam. Schools may add on additional tasks, for example, in the creative arts, foreign language, and supervised internships.

 I have visited PBAC schools many times; however, in the vast percentage of high schools teachers teach five periods a day with about 30 kids per class – 150 kids: schools would have to be totally redesigned to fit the Consortium Model.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) polled members over their attitudes about Regents Exams,

More than two-thirds think all students should continue to be provided with the opportunity to take Regents exams, even if students are not required to pass Regents exams to graduate.

More than half said there should be a statewide test like a Regents exam to determine proficiency in a specific subject.

Respondents were split when asked if the current number of required Regents exams is on target. Forty-nine percent said it’s the right number; 38 percent said there are too many; and 8 percent weren’t sure.

Let’s look at a recent American History regents question; the thematic essay on the last American History and Government exam; below is a question we would expect all students to be able to answer.


Directions: Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs addressing the task below, and a conclusion.

Theme: Amendments

The writers of the United States Constitution included an amending process to respond to changing times and unforeseen circumstances. Since the Civil War, important amendments have had an impact on the United States and/or on American society.

Task: Select two amendments to the United States Constitution since the Civil War and for each

  • Describe the historical circumstances surrounding the adoption of the amendment
  • Discuss the impact of this amendment on the United States and/or on American society

You may use any constitutional amendment that has been added since the Civil War.

Some suggestions you might wish to consider include:

13th amendment—abolition of slavery (1865)

18th amendment—Prohibition (1919)

15th amendment—African American male suffrage (1870)

19th amendment—woman’s suffrage (1920)

16th amendment—graduated income tax (1913)

26th amendment—18-year-old vote (1971)

17th amendment—direct election of United States senators (1913)

You are not limited to these suggestions.

Guidelines: In your essay, be sure to:

  • Develop all aspects of the task
  • Support the theme with relevant facts, examples, and details
  • Use a logical and clear plan of organization, including an introduction and a conclusion that are beyond a restatement of the theme.


State Education Department provides a scorers guide and anchor essays at each scoring level. The American History and Government exam will change in format in June, 2020 and SED explains the changes in minute detail (See here)

I support retaining Regents Examinations.

There are some students who are doing passing work for the entire term and fail the Regents by a few points? To the best of my knowledge the state does not collect this kind of data.

Perhaps SED should consider a safety net to address the situation above.

Currently in spite of passing regents exams, passing the required courses and graduating high schools community college students have poor retention rates.

The most recent three-year graduation rate is 26 percent at State University of New York (SUNYcommunity colleges and 22 percent at City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges. The most recent six-year graduation rate is 32 percent at SUNY community colleges and 33 percent at CUNY community colleges

 An in-depth study of community college completion rates shows rates are stagnant or falling while high school graduation rates are creeping upwards.

The state report does not disaggregate Black students by gender; The Black Boys Report from the Schott Foundation also paints a depressing picture of NYS high school graduation rates.

While graduation rates across the state continue to creep upwards the reason may be the sharp increase in students utilizing the Multiple Pathways option,

This year, school districts reported that more than 13,200 students earned a diploma through one of the new pathways, a 15-percent increase over last year.

 The state has no data on the performance of students using the Multiple Pathways option in college.

A report to the Board of Regents “What Success Looks Like: Key Practices of Unscreened High Schools That Have Dramatically Improved and/or Consistently Surpass the NYS Graduation Rate for Young Men of Color,” points to “Rigorous, Relevant Curricula/High Impact Instruction” as the key to improving outcomes.

While other states are raising the bar for graduation, acknowledging that our schools and students have to increases their knowledge and skills in this rapidly changing world we may be looking in the opposite direction. Yes, too many of our kids live in poverty, in traumatized neighborhoods and suffer from generations of the impact of racism, the “answers” must not be to lower the bar.

The My Bothers Keeper report referenced above shows that with the engaged and collaborative leadership, fully involved teachers, adequate funding and commitment schools can prepare our kids for the world ahead.

Has the Common Core Failed? and, if so, What’s Next? Has Anyone Considered Asking Teachers and Principals?

Ten years ago 46 out of 50 states adopted the Common Core (CCSS) and embarked on a voyage to improve student outcomes by adopting more rigorous standards. Ten years later three researchers express opinions on the question: Has the Common Core Failed?

This is especially important in New York State as the state begins to examine Graduation Measures, aka graduation requirements. Over the next few months dozens of regional meetings will be held to garner public opinion followed by the convening of a blue ribbon commission followed by the creation of a draft policy statement, more public comment and finally adopting new high school graduation requirements: a two year process.

A decade after the adoption of the Common Core researchers disagree over the efficacy of adopting the Common Core standards: “A decade later, has the Common Core failed.”

Morgan Polikoff, associate professor at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California; Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and an executive editor at Education Next; and Tom Loveless, past director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and former policy professor at Harvard.

Polikoff argues, “Common Standards Aren’t Enough

The impacts from the policy [Common Core] are not nothing, but they’re definitely not enough to solve the problems of America’s K–12 public schools.

 I’m not optimistic that standards reforms are going to accomplish much more without some serious rethinking of the education-reform agenda. In short, unless policymakers go after the elephant in the room—the outrageously decentralized federalist structures that encourage mediocrity (especially for the most disadvantaged students) and thwart large-scale improvement efforts—they aren’t going to get much more out of Common Core or any other reform policy.

I strongly agree, in classroom after classroom, in school after school I see well-intentioned, dedicated, caring teachers teaching content one, two and three grades levels below the grade level of students.

One conclusion seems clear: neither Common Core nor college- and career-ready standards have had big positive impacts on student achievement.

There is no argument that poverty, racism and trauma all impact the classroom; however, some schools and school districts have created atmospheres and cultures that postively impact student achievement, sadly, in far too few classrooms.

To improvise on a well-known phrase from the political strategist James Carville, when it comes to education policies, “It’s the implementation, stupid.” Evidence from many different studies using multiple methods indicates that implementation of Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards has been weak.

Schools adopt a program and teachers are monitored on their adherence to the program, after all the sticker on the front of the teacher guide says, “Common Core Aligned,” the faux education Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

While it appears that Common Core has had little effect on student achievement, there are two related trends that bear mentioning. The first is that the standards have had remarkable staying power. A lot of states have renamed the standards or even “repealed” them—but in almost every state, what is in place now looks an awful lot like the Common Core as originally written. Even the standards-aligned tests developed by two federally funded consortia, while far from dominant, are still being used in 16 states.

New York State is an example, after the attacks on CCSS accelerated New York State convened work groups of teachers across the disciplines and revised and renamed, Common Core State Standards became Next Generation State Standards, which I refer to as Common Core lite.

New York State is quick to remind critics that curriculum is school district responsibility. Although there are one set of standards the curricula in use across the state is endlessly varied and the quality of curricula also varies widely, to make it worse, in NYS, the State Department of Education (SED) does not provide any guidance over the quality of the curriculum.

… leaders could take curriculum more seriously than they have in the past. States could require the public schools to choose from among just a small number of curricular options. Teacher-education programs could train teachers in using those specific curricula, and the state could follow up by giving them ongoing training on those curricula. Teachers could be strongly discouraged, or even prevented, from cobbling together curricula from random, unregulated websites …. In exchange for this loss of control, teachers could be given more support to effectively implement their adopted materials—time to collaborate with teachers in their school, observe what’s working and what’s not, and make changes to improve implementation. But the Wild West days of every teacher and every school with their own curricula must come to an end.

Ironically one of the most widely used tools is the open source online curriculum modules. It would be far better if the state took a lead role in assessing, and perhaps rating the extremely wide range of curriculum available in the marketplace.

Funders are also recognizing the importance of curriculum and allocating their resources toward improving the ways curriculum materials are made, adopted, and used. I don’t believe that any of this would have happened without Common Core and the nearly national curriculum market it created

I’m not so sanguine.

The Common Core was basically pushed down teacher throats, they gagged, as teachers tend to do, closed their doors and to extent possible did what they thought was best. In too many cases it meant teaching down to the level of the kids, well-intentioned, and guaranteed keeping kids far below grade level.

Polikoff ignores schools that have been successful when given the opportunities to adopt impactful strategies.

Mike Petrilli on the other hand argues, “Stay the Course on National Standards” and continues to be a strong supporter of CCSS.

As an early Common Core booster, I had hoped that by now — 10 years after most states adopted the standards—our schools would have logged tangible improvements in teaching and learning that resulted in higher student achievement … there’s little evidence such progress has happened at scale.


That one small word lies at the crux of the matter.

Pertrilli thinks a decade simply isn’t enough time for such a sea change in education across the nation.

… supporters of Common Core were naive to think that the shifts associated with the new standards could happen in just a few years. As even we, the standards hawks have long recognized, standards are just words on paper. To put them to work, to make them effective requires aligned assessments and high-quality instructional materials, and those resources took a half decade or more to build. It is only very recently—since 2018 or so—that most states have had the full combination of higher standards; aligned, tougher, and stable tests; and up-and-running accountability systems. And it is only very recently—also since 2018 or so—that local school districts have had the time and money to adopt new, Common Core–aligned curricula.

Fifty states, fifty different departments of education, in New York State 700 school districts and 4400 schools with elected lay school boards frequently driving education policy decisions, decisions crafted to burnish the reputation of a superintendent or school board, namely, endless test prep to boost scores..

…  the low-level standards and tests in place in most states were sending the wrong signal to parents, educators, and taxpayers: that vastly more students were on track for future success than really were. Students were easily passing the state tests and graduating from high school, but only 30 to 40 percent of these graduates were truly ready for what was next. These indicators of student performance had merely created the illusion of proficiency.

Pertrilli sees CCSS as the whip necessary to drive states and localities to upgrade standards and increase student outcomes.

The mass adoption of the Common Core helped to supercharge these developments. It’s possible that states would have moved in this direction even without the standards, eventually, but there were few signs of that at the time. Multiple studies … found lackluster progress in the quality or clarity of standards over the 2000s. As for the level of rigor in the state assessments, most states defined “proficiency” at rock-bottom levels, up and until the adoption of the Common Core,

How do you help kids to catch up? Unfortunately aside from the CCSS Petrilli sees no magic pathway, and muses over “digital resources,” a direction that is extremely costly and, so far, only enriches the pockets of the digital providers,

The undertaking ahead is huge. In raising standards for what it means for a student to be “on track” or “on grade level” in the quest for college- and career-readiness, most states have had to declare 50 to 60 percent of their students to be behind in their learning. In many classrooms—especially in high-poverty communities—it’s not unusual for most children to be two or three grade levels behind. Figuring out how to help these kids catch up, while encouraging their higher-achieving peers to continue making progress, is extraordinarily difficult. It will likely require new teaching strategies, the use of digital resources that allow for greater personalization, and other approaches that nobody has yet dreamed up.

Will this go well everywhere—and anytime soon? Surely not. Does that mean policymakers should revert to state standards that were mediocre, unclear, and targeted at basic literacy and innumeracy? Return to state assessments that tested low-level skills and encouraged low-level teaching? Blow up the national market for curricular and digital products that has been created, painstakingly, over the past 10 years?

No. The smartest path forward is to follow through on the Common Core initiative.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again even though it keeps failing.

Tom Loveless writes,Common Core Has Not Worked.

10 years after 46 of the 50 states adopted the Common Core standards; the lack of evidence that they have improved student achievement is nonetheless remarkable. Despite the fact that Common Core enjoyed the bipartisan support of policy elites and commanded vast financial resources from both public and private sources, it simply did not accomplish what its supporters had intended. The standards wasted both time and money and diverted those resources away from more promising pursuits

A decade after the release of the Common Core standards, the accumulated evidence reveals no meaningfully positive result.

I wholeheartedly agree, “a waste of time and money.”

Yet the research to date on Common Core reinforces a larger body of evidence suggesting that academic-content standards bear scant relevance to student learning.

The “aligned to standards” mantra is not evidence of a path to improve student outcomes.

A curriculum-review process that gives greater weight to adherence to standards than to impact on learning is not identifying high-quality curricula; it is identifying conforming curricula.

Sadly, Loveless concludes,

…  the evidence suggests student achievement is, at best, about where it would have been if Common Core had never been adopted, if the billions of dollars spent on implementation had never been spent, if the countless hours of professional development inducing teachers to retool their lessons had never been imposed. When will time be up on the Common Core experiment? How many more years must pass, how much more should Americans spend, and how many more effective curricula must be pushed aside before leaders conclude that Common Core has failed?

The first rule of Personal and Organizational Change is “Change is perceived as punishment.”  When the powers that be tell teachers what they have been doing in class for a career is wrong they tend to be resentful.

The second rule is “Participation reduces resistance.”

If you speak with teachers and ask “Can we do better?” and ask them if they can assist by particpating in constructing new pathways, maybe, just maybe, we can find the pathways.

Michael Mulgrew, the leader of the UFT, the New York City teachers union announced that the Chancellor, the President of the Supervisors Union (CSA) and the teacher union (UFT) have agreed on a process. The principal and the school union rep will enter all the reading and math curriculum (aka, programs) used in the school into a database, there over fifty different programs/curricula sued in NYC schools and up to now schools have had carte blanche in program selection.

Management and labor, meaning the Department of Education and the unions will create professional development sessions for schools to align curriculum,  state standards and instruction in each school. If new programs/curricula are required the Department, not the school will fund.

This is not the magic bullet.

Yes, a small step, small steps can lead to longer strides.

We must continue to fight for more resources, larger budgets, and ending generational poverty in the communities that surround schools; however, we must also be reflective, dollars do not guarantee success.

Respecting teachers and their unions, including unions in building an aligned teaching-learning process from Pre-K to 12 offers the possibility of building cultures of success within schools, not a handful of schools, most schools. This will require support from the chancellor to superintendents to principals to teachers; this will require engaging parents and communities.

Maybe the “big-bad” teacher unions offer the pathway to a more effective teaching-learning processes.

The NYS Legislative Session and Education: What Can We Expect in Albany?

Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York County, he wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s lifeliberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

On January 8th Governor Cuomo laid out his priorities for the 2020 session in his State of the State speech to a joint meeting of both house of the legislature and a few thousand invited guests.

For Cuomo’s first eight years he faced a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate with the Governor as the referee. Cuomo cracked the whip; the progressive arm of the Democratic Party was constantly thwarted as Cuomo successfully increased his authority.

In this year’s speech, well over an hour, the governor had a long list of proposals,

Cuomo’s most high-profile proposals – laid out in his annual address Wednesday in Albany – include legalizing recreational marijuana and calling for state legislators to reveal their tax returns. He is also proposing guaranteed paid sick leave for nearly all workers statewide and an expansion of universal pre-kindergarten, as well as a $3 billion environmental bond act to combat climate change.

 And, barely mentioned education.

In about two weeks he will reveal his budget, and, how he intends to close a $6.1 billion gap primarily caused by structural increases in the cost of Medicaid.

In New York State the governor controls the budget. His control is the result of two NYS Court of Appeals decisions, Silver v Pataki that affirmed the powers of the executive office.

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

 In the run up to the 2014 gubernatorial election a few teacher unions on Long Island opposed Cuomo and supported Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary. After an easy victory in the general election in the 2015 legislative session Cuomo used the budget to add a year to teacher probation and a number of pro-charter school items.

The Working Families Party has been publicly critical of the governor from the left; perhaps critical is too kind a term, at times they were far harsher than the Republicans. An election commission tasked with working out raises for the members of the legislature also sharply increased the threshold for a place on the ballot in state-wide elections, a decision negatively impacting the WFP’s ability to get on the ballot.

Politics is a full contact sport.

The pressure from the left will now come from the new, young progressives elected to the Senate in 2018.

Shelly Mayer, the chair of the Senate Education Committee held a series of forums and hearing across the state asking for feedback about the controverisal Foundation Aid Formula, the state’s share of school funding.

The foundation aid formula was devised in 2007 to drive financial equity among New York‘s school districts by using state aid to balance uneven property taxes. The formula weighs factors like a district’s poverty, educational costs, regional costs like labor, and local property values

 I attended the NYC hearing: Read my testimony:

No one is happy with the formula.

Read all 100 plus pages of the Foundation Aid Formula here.

The complexity of the formula and the competing interests of school districts will make it unlikely that the legislature, in an abbreviated session, can address both the inequities and the political thicket.

The NYS legislature adjourns in June 2nd, three weeks earlier than the previous sessions due to June 23rh party primaries.

In my view, as I wrote in my testimony; the best will be the appointment of a commission to return with recommended changes, or, a commission whose report will become law unless the legislature amends the recommendations avoiding unpopular votes.

Another option is simply doing nothing.

Whether the state still “owes” school districts dollars (for NYC: 1.1 billion) under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit will eventually be decided in court. The governor has made it clear he considers the CFE lawsuit a closed matter.

Are there any other education issues?

Yes, the education dollars for the 20-21 school year will the impending state budget deficit impact the State Education request for a $2 billion increase? Probably. How vigorously will the class of 2018 in the Senate fight for education dollars and how effective will the democratic leader, Andrea Stewart –Cousins be in reining  in or unleashing her new members?

The 1971 Hecht-Callandra law requires  that specialized high schools in New York City only use an examination for admittance; repealing or amending the law did not gain any traction during the 2019 legislative session. The criticism of the exam, the only requirement for admission is widespread, finding an alternative has eluded legislators.

The governor has yet to sign the bill taking over two Long Island schools districts, Hempstead and Wyandanch, if he fails to sign the bills die. The school districts have been dysfunctional for years; the governor has been silent on his reticence to sign the bill.

Deep in the night of March 31 as bills are passed before they are read:  who knows?

Cuomo showed political acuity in not joining the rush to the White House, de Blasio’s campaign never gained traction and Bloomberg is spending tens of millions and is still in the low single digits. Where does Cuomo want to go?  A fourth term in Albany? A run for the Senate against Gillebrand in a primary?  Will he use his budgetary powers to add a non-budget issue that will burnish his reputation, gain political allies or punish perceived enemies?

No man’s lifeliberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Postscript: California Governor Newsom makes education funding the # 1 priority in the state with a wide range of funding priorities.