Hot Potato: The NYS Regents May Have to Decide How Teachers Are Assessed (in 60 days), Any Ideas?

Ever play “hot potato”?

♫ One potato
Two potatoes
Three potatoes
Four!
Five potatoes
Six potatoes
Seven potatoes
More!

Maybe its appropriate that the state legislature and the governor are playing a children’s game?

The governor’s blustering and threatening resulted in a cyclonic backlash; from the teachers to parents to electeds with his approval rating in free fall. Others new plans, a “matrix,” as convoluted as the movie, a committee, each suggestion was met with suspicion, the “hot potato” was bouncing from the governor to the Senate to the Assembly, no one wanted it, it was too politically hot.

News reports and the rumor mill claim the budget process will return teacher evaluation to the Board of Regents to craft a plan and return to the legislature for action by June 1. Let me underline, I have not seen a bill, just reporting based on news reports.

The entire teacher evaluation catastrophe seems beyond redemption. The heart of the argument is tying teacher effectiveness to test scores, using a dense algorithm so that teachers teaching similar students are compared to each other; the statistical term is value-added modeling (VAM). All the experts agree that while the data is interesting, especially over time, it should not be used for high stakes decisions, like firing and promotion, it’s too unstable; however, arguing that teachers are totally responsible for test scores is a simple answer to a complex issue has swept from state to state.

The Race to the Top (RttT) application required a teacher evaluation plan, a multiple measures plan incorporating student test scores (VAM).

The pushback has been unabated, with examples of teachers rated highly effective by the principal and ineffective by the VAM algorithm, and a few the reverse.

To further confuse, about 75% of teachers teach non-tested subjects or classes, how do you use student data to assess the 75%? The Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) vary from school to school from school district to school district.

The New York State plan calls for 20% assessment by student test scores: 20% by a locally negotiated metric and 60% by supervisory observations using one of six approved rubrics.

When the dust settled after year one 51% of teachers were rated “highly effective” and 1% “ineffective.”

In the days before Charlotte Danielson became an iconic name, I met with Charlotte and about twenty principals. At the end of the session one principal proudly proclaimed, “In my school every teacher will be highly effective.” Danielson shook her head, “You’re lucky if a teacher is highly effective occasionally during a single lesson.”

BTW, Danielson emphasized that her Frameworks were a professional development tool not an evaluative tool and trashed the use of student test scores as an evaluative tool.

A closer look at the scores across the state is disturbing. In many districts every teacher received very high observation scores: can all 200 teachers in a district be highly effective? Teachers teaching special education, English language learners, and very high poverty kids tended to get lower scores. Do we attract less competent teachers or is the algorithm flawed? Some teachers (art, music, physical education) are rated based upon the school-wide ELA and/or Math scores, does that make any sense?

How are the seventeen members of the Board of Regents going to “correct” the current system in 60 days?

In a handful of schools teachers play a role in assessing colleagues: peer assessment is commonplace in other professions. Should we include teachers, colleagues in the same school, on teams with principals? Should we use teachers from other schools?

A paper from the Chicago Consortium on School Research published in Education Next, Does Better Observation Make Better Teachers, November 2014, assesses a teacher observation experiment in Chicago,

The principals’ role evolved from pure evaluation to a dual role in which, by incorporating instructional coaching, the principal served as both evaluator and formative assessor of a teacher’s instructional practice. It seems reasonable to expect that more-able principals could make this transition more effectively than less-able principals. A very similar argument can be made for the demands that the new evaluation process placed on teachers. More-capable teachers are likely more able to incorporate principal feedback and assessment into their instructional practice.

Our results indicate that while the pilot evaluation system led to large short-term, positive effects on school reading performance, these effects were concentrated in schools that, on average, served higher-achieving and less-disadvantaged students. For high-poverty schools, the effect of the pilot is basically zero.

In another study, “Teacher Dismissal Under New Evaluation System” (Grover Whitehurst and Katherine Lindquist), published also in Education Next sees “troublesome” flaws in observational teacher evaluation systems,


… we identified flaws in the evaluation systems that need correction. The most troublesome of these is a strong bias in classroom observations that leads to teachers who are assigned more able students receiving better observation scores. The classroom observation systems capture not only what the teacher is doing, but also how students are responding. This makes the teacher’s classroom performance look better to an observer when the teacher has academically well-prepared students than when she doesn’t.

We are a long way from a system that clearly differentiates effectiveness among teachers. There is no question that the variation from school to school, from school district to school district, is significant.

European countries use teacher inspectorates, teams that visit schools and assess both school and teacher quality.

I wish the Board of Regent luck.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: Just Out!! General outline of education initatives in the budget here

Albany. Teacher Evaluation, Cuomo. Seeming Chaos and the Heritage of James Madison

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. Otto von Bismarck

Thousands upon thousands of emails, texts, tweets; hundreds of visits, scores of demonstrations and rallies all challenging decisions of the governor. Millions of dollars funneled into the governor’s campaign, each day the tension builds towards decisions on teacher evaluation, tenure, “receivership’ and school aid.

It all seems chaotic and confusing, and James Madison would be smiling.

The “chaos” in Albany is the essence of democracy, the rough and tumble of politics was described by Madison as “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” exactly how decisions should be made. Madison, in Federalist # 51 wrote,

… the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices 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. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions (Federalist # 51, 2/6/1788)

Yes, men are not angels.

The Democratic controlled Assembly, the Republican controlled Senate and the governor are jousting. The “public” casting arrows at the governor, the governor defending, deals offered, rejected, with a ticking clock.

Carl Heastie, the newly elected Speaker of Assembly meets with his members before and/or after each session, called “conference.” The speaker takes the “temperature of his members.” Under his predecessor, Sheldon Silver, the conference was pro forma, Silver ruled with an iron fist, any disloyalty. or perceived disloyalty was treated with retribution. Heastie, on the other hand, has been open to his members. The dumping of two long time incumbent regents and the election of four new regents clearly was the will of local members of the Assembly.

At the Monday conference a proposed teacher evaluation plan, referred to as a “matrix” was discussed and looked upon with suspicion by the members. On Tuesday a new plan, a six member committee, two each appointed by the governor, the Assembly and the Senate, and reporting back by June 1st, all state aid would be held up until the committee reports. Thursday a plan to turn the creation of a new teacher evaluation plan over to the Regents.

And probably new “concepts” coming fast and furious as we move toward the March 31 end of the fiscal year.

State aid could be held hostage until teacher evaluation is resolved. As the governor’s popularity rating continues to tank the legislators are more emboldened.

Perhaps members will have an opportunity to run home Sunday, do laundry and run back for the Monday through Aril 1 almost round the clock sessions.

If the factions cannot reach a budget by April 1 the governor can take the nuclear option, issue “emergency budget extenders” and force through his budget. See the background on the extender option here
and the current Cuomo “threats” here.

The extender option would be declaring war on the legislature and with a falling popularity rating the extender option, if popular with the public could revive his reputation or sink him to the depths.

I am asked “Aren’t the Republicans on the governor’s side?” Yes, the Republicans support charter schools, as long as they’re not in their districts; however the Republicans need the Democrats on the issue of “ethics,” a rather obtuse term. The key factor is a limitation on outside income, Many in the Republican leadership retain high-paying jobs as lawyers, and some may have “Shelly Silver ” problems. The Republicans need the Democrats to avoid being squeezed by the governor.

All sides need an artfully crafted solution that will allow everyone to claim “victory.” The Governor, the Assembly, the Senate, the teacher union and the public, all must appear to have saved face and come away with a piece of the pie.

It is rare to be able to claim victory while holding the still warm heart of your enemy over your head, although when Shelly Silver was led away in handcuffs it was the gratifying equivalent.

I was arguing a grievance before an arbitrator, while I knew I was right the Department was arguing the grievance was untimely, they would agree they were wrong, they would not agree to back pay.

A light bulb flashed! I convinced the arbitrator, and eventually the Department to put days into the grievant’s absent teacher reserve that equaled the value of the lost salary. The Department didn’t have to write a check and the grievant received a remedy that probably exceeded the actual back pay. A win-win.

Can the contending sides craft a “win-win”?

For Madison the essence of government: 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. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.

Ultimately the labyrinth that are the halls of Albany will be mastered by the people. That is the magnificent beauty that our founding father left to us to cherish and defend.

Will the Newly Reconstituted Board of Regents Create a New Agenda? Can the Regents Convert Parent/Voter Anger into Support? Can the Regents Lead a National Revolution?

Appointment, actually “election” to the Board of Regents was an honorific, after decades of service you were selected to serve on the Board. Once a month you trekked to Albany, discussed policy issues, and with rare exception confirmed the decisions of the commissioner. Prior to last year no one can remember a Regent who was not reappointed after completing their five year term.

For years state test scores incrementally increased, all was well in the kingdom.

Newly appointed Commissioner Steiner had his doubts and commissioned a study.

In July, 2010 a report by Harvard professor Daniel Koretz found that the state tests, as suspected, were getting easier each year.

“It is very likely that some of the state’s progress was illusory,” said Daniel Koretz, the Harvard testing expert who led the research. “You can have exaggerated progress over all that creates very high pass rates. It doesn’t seem logical to call those kids proficient.”

Former Commissioner Miles retired, and no investigation took place: Were the Regents aware of the “easing” of the scores? Was Chancellor Bennett aware of the manipulations? No one seemed to care. Bennett continued on the board and was addressed with the encomium, “Chancellor Emeritus.”

The Common Core changed the landscape.

New Commissioner King turned aside suggestions to phase in the Common Core and testing: full steam ahead.

The criticism mounted, suggestions to slow down, to phase in, all ignored.

A year ago Regent Jackson was not reappointed and this year two of the senior Regent members, both had served for over twenty years and were actively seeking reappointment were bumped by local legislators.

Regents Bennett and Dawson, complained that “politics” had driven them out, and, of course the process is political (see Jessica Bakeman article here)

The public outcry over Common Core testing, in the summer of 2013 two-thirds of students failed the state grades 3-8 tests, had grown and grown. Too many members of the Regents were tone deaf, and Commissioner King went on the road to quell the rising parent rebellion. The first meeting was in Poughkeepsie was a disaster and, King responded that the meeting has been “co-oped.” He failed to understand the anger.

As a Social Studies teacher I did not object to the Common Core – for example see 9th grade standards below:

* Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

* Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

* Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

The standards were not revolutionary, in fact, they were not dramatically different from the last set of standards.

The difference is that the current standards are dogma with the rigidity of religious dogma. The failure to “teach” a Common Core lesson is apostasy, with serious consequences for the practitioner.

The standards were written in stone, not a word could be changed, works of fiction were discouraged, the math was obtuse, the whip was cracked in Washington and with Jesuitical enthusiasm the lowly priests, the classroom teachers were expected, no required, to chant the mantra..

Resistance grew: scores of U-Tubes railing against the Common Core, from Diane Ravitch to 53,000 views of a high school senior in Tennessee, the orthodoxy was challenged.

The elected were getting nervous, as anger grew they feared retribution at the polls.

The holy books, the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, are philosophical texts, over the centuries who would have thought that the Crusades, the religious wars that slaughtered millions of Catholics and Protestants, the Holocaust and the Sunni-Shiite genocides, all “justified” by the writings within the holy texts,

The seemingly benign Common Core State Standards have been imposed with fanatical vigor, flailing teachers who dare to challenge a comma, creating tests with dire consequences and dividing students and teachers into “highly effective” and “ineffective” categories based on the economic status of students.

.The reconstituted Board of Regents have a rare opportunity, the Regents and the Regents alone can restore confidence in education in New York State.

How about thr following agenda?

Challenge the Feds:

The Obama-Duncan education policies are widely discredited, the reauthorization of ESEA will smolder for months in Congress, many ideas, many conflicting ideas with the possibility of an Obama veto. Why not challenge two of the most outrageous edicts? English language learners must be tested after one year in the country and Students with Disabilities must be tested at their chronological age rather than their functional age; the feds denied an attempt to alter the requirements through the waiver process. Challenge the feds: No testing of ELLs for their first three years in the country and testing in years four and five will only be for diagnostic purposes, not for school or teacher accountability. Testing for SWD will be determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The SED folk will say we can’t violate federal edicts, why not?

Reconfigure the Cut Scores

The standards-setting process sets the cut scores, the cut scores determine the student achievement levels from 1 to 4, from lowest to highest. Commissioner King closely controlled the process. Calls to phase in the new cut scores were ignored. After the public relations catastrophe the SED decided to phase in the impact of the Common Core Regents exams over eights years as well as phasing in the TASC, the replacement for the GED..

The Regents can reconfigure the cut scores based on the 2012 score distributions and phase in the new scores over an extended period. It would be both highly controversial, attacked by the Post and the Daily News and applauded by parents and educators across the state.

Review the Common Core State Standards

The standards have not been chiseled on Mount Rushmore, at least not yet. The Regents can appoint a panel: university, superintendents and practititoners to examine the CCSS and recommend changes. “Participation reduces resistence.”

Measure School Progress Using a Risk Load Index

The November, 2014 Center for NYC Affairs report , A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal about NYS’s Lowest Income Elementary Schools,identified “risk factors,”

The report identifies 18 “risk factors” that are associated with chronic absenteeism, … Schools with a very high “risk load” are likely to suffer from poor attendance. Some of the school factors are: students in temporary housing; student suspensions; the perception of safety; and principal, teachers and student turnover. The neighborhood factors include: male unemployment, presence of public housing or a homeless shelter in a school’s attendance zone, adult levels of education, and involvement with the Administration for Children’s Services.

The Regents should begin the process of creating a student academic growth measurement utilizing the “risk load” factors and incorporate the index in the determination of student growth, comparing inner city. high poverty schools with well-resourced high wealth schools is both foolish and futile.

Begin a Discussion: Moving Away from a Property Tax-Based System

The New York State school funding system is deeply flawed; school funding is based upon wealth, the wealthier the school district the higher the per student funding. The state budget can ease the impact of the property tax system, not resolve the inequities. The state must begin to move away from property taxes, all funding should emanate from the state based upon a state-wide formula. This is a highly complex, highly political, in fact, explosive issue. The Regents can begin the discussion, ultimately the changes require changes in the law.

The new Board of Regents can begin to place education policy back on track, can begin to reflect communities, families and practitioners.

It wouldn’t be easy, the ed (de)formers will attack; editorials, the billionaires club, the Washington think tanks, all will attempt to dissuade the Regents.

The days of members of the Board of Regents whiling away days rubber stamping decisions of an all-powerful commissioner are gone. Regent members are in the forefront of change, if they remain on the sidelines, act meekly, the legislature may decide to change the role of the Regents,

A clock is ticking.

What is the “New Teacher” Crisis? Should We Set High Barriers to Becoming a Teacher or Figure Out How to Retain New Teachers? Exploring the Dunning -Kruger Syndrome

The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimate of themselves.

The State Education Department, under former commissioner King and de facto commissioner Wagner have made decisions that I have to believe are due to a Dunning-Kruger effect, they make no sense otherwise.

The latest are the decisions relating to “raising the bar” for prospective teachers by creating unproven testing obstacles.

The first wave of education reform in New York City was intended to move from patronage hiring to hiring based upon qualifications. The creation of the Board of Examiners, a quasi-independent board created examinations for teachers and supervisors and promulgated rank-ordered lists. Teachers who received passing grades were appointed to positions in schools pursuant to their grade: highest grade to the lowest passing grade. For seventy years the hiring of teachers was a meritocracy; I remember sitting in the gymnasium at Brooklyn Tech High School for hours poring over questions and writing a series of essays. Months later I was grilled by a panel of examiners, it seems like it took hours, and, eventually a list was posted in the newspaper listing the candidates who passed the exam, with their grade. Yes, a form of public shaming, we survived.

In the 60’s the Board of Examiners became the subject of increasing criticism, with a rising civil rights movement racial disparities in pass/fail rates challenged the validity of the tests: were the tests actually job-related?

In the 1972 the federal courts ruled the Board of Examiners tests unconstitutional. (Read the Court of Appeal decision here ), the Chancellor at the time supported the decision of the trial court,

In a memorandum to the Board of Education, quoted by Judge Mansfield in his opinion, Chancellor Scribner stated that to defend against plaintiffs’ case,

“… would require that I both violate my own professional beliefs and defend a system of personnel selection and promotion which I no longer believe to be workable.”

From the mid-seventies into the 90’s New York City required a 20-minute interview. New York State instituted a two-exam system: the LAST and the ACT-W, passing rates continued to increase; today they are in the high 90th percentiles.

A recent study conducted by Hemp Langford of SUNY/Albany and other scholars reviewed teacher quality,

We analyze 25 years of data on the academic ability of teachers in New York State and document that since 1999 the academic ability of both individuals certified and those entering teaching has steadily increased. These gains are widespread and have resulted in a substantial narrowing of the differences in teacher academic ability between high- and low-poverty schools and between White and minority teachers. We interpret these gains as evidence that the status of teaching is improving.

Unfortunately New York State jumped on the “raise the bar” bandwagon without reviewing teacher quality within the state. At the March 17th Regents Meeting the de facto commissioner, defending the new hyper-testing requirements said,

“I think we all want … to send a very clear message that it should be difficult to enter the profession.”

No. I think the “very clear message” we want to send; New York State is preparing highly qualified students to enter the profession. “Difficult” does not assure quality.

The State Ed Department has certainly made it difficult to become a teacher, with no assurances that the hurtles will improve the quality of the workforce.

Prospective teachers in New York State are now required to pass four separate examinations: edTPA, the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), the Educating All Students (EAS) test and the Content Specialty Test (CST) in order to receive their initial teaching certificate.

The edTPA, created by Stanford University and administered and scored by Pearson,

Evidence of a candidate’s ability to teach is drawn from a subject-specific learning segment of 3-5 lessons from a unit of instruction taught to one class of students. Materials assessed as part of the edTPA process include video clips of instruction, lesson plans, student work samples, analysis of student learning, and reflective commentaries. Based on the submitted evidence, which is reviewed by trained scorers, faculty and candidates can discuss the impact of candidates’ teaching performance on student learning and determine ways to improve teaching. Faculty can analyze evidence of candidate performance to guide decision-making about program revision. State education agencies may use edTPA scores for licensure and accreditation

The Academic Literacy and Skills Test (ALAST) is a 210-minute, computer-based exam.

[The teacher candidate] reads a complex informational and narrative text and demonstrates command of key ideas and details in the text … makes logical inferences based on textual evidence … delineates and evaluates the argument and specific claims in a text.

The ALST consists of a selected response section and constructed responses, two focused responses and one extended response.

The Educating All Students (EAS) test is a 135-minute, computer-based exam “consisting of selected response items based on scenario-based responses … the competencies include Diverse Student Populations, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, Teacher Responsibilities and School-Home Relationships.”

The Content Specialty Test (CST) is a series of tests in about fifty different areas, the Multi-Subject Grades 1-6 (Common Branches) is a computer-based test:

Part One: Literacy and English Language Arts, Part Two: 40 selected-response items and a constructed response item in Mathematics: Part Three: 40 selected-response items and one constructed response item in Arts and Sciences, tests can be taken in three separate sections or at one time: 5 hours and 15 minutes.

About ten hours of actual testing time and days and days preparing for and constructing the video segment of the edTPA.

The tests and the test preparation materials cost the student about a thousand dollars.

Is the any evidence that the battery of testing will produce more qualified teachers and better student outcomes? The answer is no.

There is general agreement that the edTPA is valuable and should be integrated into college programs; “clinically-rich” programs incorporate a great deal of actual in-class practice teaching, and, a few colleges, very few, use videos as reflective teaching-learning tools for teacher candidates.

I asked the Director of Field Services in a teacher education program if he saw any relationship between the ALAST and EAS exams and teacher quality. His answer, “I’m baffled, top students failed and marginal students passed, it makes no sense to me.”

The State Education folks clearly suffer from Dunning-Kruger Syndrome; they are ignoring mountains of evidence insisting that they are correct.

In New York City 35% of new teachers leave within five years and I’m sure the same number accrues in inner city high poverty school districts across the state; teachers leave high poverty schools at much more accelerated rates than teachers in high achieving schools.

The core of the teacher issue is teacher retention in schools with the lowest academic achievement.

Sadly the rush to “test to teacher excellence” appears to be driving away prospective teachers, enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the state is sharply down.

While the folks in charge constantly beat the diversity drums, they agree that we should attract a more diverse teaching workforce; however, the failure rates on the ALAST and the EAS are significantly higher among black and Hispanic test takers. The exam system is the subject of a lengthy litigation (Gulino v Board of Education and State Education) that is nearing a conclusion; the federal court could rule the exams are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Yes, I understand Finland only selects teachers from the top ten percent of applicants, Finland is also a nation with almost no childhood poverty and income equality, within their workforce teachers are well-paid. If we dragged Finnish teachers across the pond and dumped them in Rochester or East New York we would not see magic.

Rather than address the problem, attracting the right candidates, providing high quality teacher preparation programs based in evidence, supporting new teachers over their first few years, we are discouraging new applicants, using “tests” that are unproven, not valid or reliable and ignoring the discouraging exit of new teachers, from both the profession and from high needs schools.

Is there a vaccine to cure Dunning-Kruger Syndrome?

The Charter Wars Revisited: “Backfill,” Suspensions, Choice and Authentic Assessment at the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Institute (MI) is a conservative think tank, publishes City Journal and supports research; Marcus Winters, a senior fellow and professor at University of Colorado has written a number of papers supporting charter schools. The latest MI event was entitled “Are NYC Charter Schools Doing All They Can to Serve the Neediest Students?”

Winters presented his latest paper, “Pushed Out? Low Performing Students and Charter Schools,” Winters argues,

• Low-performing students are more mobile, regardless of where they are enrolled: in NYC charters as well as traditional public schools, low-performing students are more likely to change schools than their higher-performing peers.
• Low-performing students are not more likely to exit NYC charters than traditional public schools.
• To the extent that higher attrition rates for low-performing NYC students offer cause for concern, they are no less a problem for the city’s traditional public schools than they are for its charters.

Winters agreed there was anecdotal evidence in regard to “push outs,” however due to the lack of transparency there is no hard data, although he did agree that the failure to fill vacated spots in charter schools, commonly called “backfill” was an issue.

Read Chalkbeat on the “backfill” issue here.

Read the full Winters report here.

I was nibbling on the breakfast fruit and croissant and sipping my coffee when next speaker changed the entire tenor of the meeting.

Seth Andrew is the founder of Democracy Prep and Democracy Builders, an avid supporter of charter schools. Andrews challenged the charter school community: in the upcoming April lottery open up positions in all grades. Currently, with rare exception, charter schools only accept students in their opening grade. He argued if charter schools ended the “backfill” accusations, charter schools and public schools could be compared evenly. Andrews turned to Ian Rowe, his co-panelist and the CEO of Public Prep, and challenged him to fill empty seats in his charter schools, and specifically referenced declining enrollment grade by grade with specific numbers: they didn’t come to blows, however, it was “hot and heavy” for a while. For Andrew if a kid doesn’t get picked in the initial charter school lottery s(he) is trapped in a public failing school. If charter seats are available every year in every grade we would have an even playing field between charter and public schools. Andrew warned if charter schools fought “backfill” it would be forced upon them. Andrew further pushed the envelope, he charged that for every kid charters lose by attrition, they lose the funding for the kid, let’s say $15,000, and they attempt to replace the money through philanthropy, which Andrew says is not a workable model. I was stunned, and fascinated.

Jim Merriman, the President of the NYC Charter School Center, and another panelist, agreed that single entrepreneurship charters were at a substantial disadvantage; they had no outside support network; he mused about a BOCES-type support system. There are, I believe 37 BOCES centers across the state, school districts purchase services from BOCES, perhaps specialized services for Students with Disabilities, Career Education, literacy, math or technology experts, all available to assist the surrounding school districts. Would a BOCES-like network be necessary for the individual charters schools to prosper?

Merriman sees charter schools as evening the playing field. For decades, according to Merriman, middle class parents could chose neighborhoods with “good” schools or attend screened schools that use reading and math scores to segregate students by race and class, charter schools simply give the same advantage to inner city kids surrounded by low performing schools. What would de Blasio say?

In the Q & A I asked whether the substantially higher rates of charter school suspensions was increasing the “school to prison pipeline?” The highly unsatisfactory responses: charter schools have standards and students must live up to the standards, and, public schools want to suspend, and can’t. In my view charter schools suspend high numbers of kids due to the inexperience of their teachers. Experienced teachers learn to “listen with a third ear,” to grow antenna, to intuitively know when a kid is angry or frustrated or depressed, they know how to intervene and avoid a confrontation situation.

All the panelists agreed the current state testing system was deeply flawed. Ian Rowe suggested project-based authentic assessments on every grade.

Charters, public, unions, cities, suburbs and rural, I believe every school across the state would agree that authentic assessment would be a far better system to assess student progress than the current Pearson Common Core tests. (Read an excellent Grant Wiggins article here on authentic assessment)

Is it possible to get past Eva and work with charter schools on areas where there is common agreement?

Will charter schools agree to “backfill” vacant seats?

Will public and charters work together on professional develop and school/teacher support?

Can charters and publics work together to move from Pearson tests to true authentic assessment?

Sol Stern was a resident scholar at MI who specialized in the Middle East and Education, he mused about which of the two would be resolved first … I used to think Education

The “March Massacre:” The Legislature Dumps Two Senior Regents Members and Appoints Three Former Superintendents: Change Is In the Air.

Call it the “March Massacre,” two of the longest serving members of the Regents were seeking re-appointment, a process that in the past was automatic, were bumped, and, the two vacancies were filled with retired superintendents (Chin/Johnson)

Judy Chin Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efBGakseBsk

Beverly Ouderkirk Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTi5HtiQYWo

Judith Johnson Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TgVXOBW6t0

Catherine Collins bio: http://www.monroefordham.org/people/Catherine%20_Collins.html

The new 17-member Board will have six former superintendents.

The actions of the leadership of the NYS Assembly are an example of democracy in action, when the public rises up, attend meetings, visit legislators, write letters, create web sites and Facebook pages, the electeds listen.

Commissioner King, although well-intentioned did not, or refused, to understand that the public, primarily parents and teachers care deeply about their children and their profession. You cannot bully to change, reform is a process, and if change is viewed as punishment it will fail.

The Common Core State Standards became the symbol of evil, resistance grew and grew, and Pearson, the test-makers become a dirty word.

Kids who had done well in school suddenly failed state-wide exams, the Common Core State Standards seemed unfair, seemed punitive. Teachers, who were successful for years with the flash of a pen, became unsuccessful. Requests to slow down, to phase in the changes were ignored, not only ignored, but disrespected. From the Common Core to teacher evaluation, to new College and Career Readiness metrics, one massive rollout after another. Superintendents, principals and teachers were overwhelmed, no one was listening. Parent anger grew and was directed at local electeds, why couldn’t they slow down the train?

King was shuttled off to Washington, no matter, the anger continued to build.

Opt-Out Long Island has 20,000 members and growing, Opt-Out movements are growing across the state,

The governor flinched in June and introduced a law to slow the impact of the Common Core, and, out of anger/revenge or just plain nastiness vetoed his own bill.

Fred Dicker, in the NY Post, writes, democrats despise Cuomo,

“People in the party all hate him,’’ one of the state’s best-known Democratic operatives told The Post.

A prominent Democratic elected official added, “There’s an ABC factor at work here. It’s ‘Anybody But Cuomo.’’

Cuomo’s attack on teachers, his full-blown support of the King agenda escalated, parent and teacher anger seethed.

The Assembly leadership sent a signal: they “fired” two of the most senior members of the Board of Regents and added three public school superintendents to the Board. If you view the U-Tubes above you can watch the interviews, the superintendents are teachers, and as all educators they question the direction of education in New York State. Why the hyper-emphasis on testing? Why test kids every year? Why rate teachers by test student test scores?

While the governor is demanding that the use of student tests scores increase to 50% and 35% of observations are made by an outside entity, the new Regents, with many years of experience in the trenches demur.

Today the legislature will “elect” seven members of the Board, four new (see above) and three incumbents (Cashin, Tilles and Young), will the new members, all accomplished women, continue to follow the King policies or move the state in a different direction. And, the best way to make a statement is to select a commissioner who represents the parents, teachers and citizens of New York State, not ill-considered “reform” agenda out of Washington.

A number of times the former commissioner and his staff explained why DC “rules” or “regulations” prohibited what appeared to be a perfectly sensible idea, Harry Phillips, who chose not to run again, jumped in, “Let’s challenge the feds, let’s be disobedient”

Harry was right, hopefully the new Board will move the education ship of state back on course.

Mixed Martial Arts in Albany: Cuomo versus Heastie versus Skelos

The mixed martial arts bills are progressing through the state legislature, the actual mixed martial arts, the combat in the octagon, the real blood sport is in full bloom. The featured bout: Cuomo v Heastie v Skelos.

The 150 members of the Assembly and the 63 members of the Senate gather in Albany the first week in January, some are deeply involved in introducing bills, other spend their time on constituent services and some work on their outside employment. Over the next term, the 2015 and 2016 sessions, over 15,000 bills will be introduced into the Assembly, about 500 will become laws, less than five percent of the bills introduced.

Members from Manhattan may file hundreds upon hundreds of bills, members from the inner city fifty bills, and chairs of major committees may file hardly any bills. Introducing a bill is a long way from passage, bills require democratic sponsorship in the Assembly, republican sponsorship in the Senate and gubernatorial support for final passage, a long, long road.

From January until the end of March the legislative leadership is consumed with the budget and the leadership has to gauge the temperature of their caucus, called the “conference.” Before or after a floor session members will meet in conference,’ a closed meeting, members and top staff only, no votes are taken, no minutes, the members can speak freely. How “tough” are the members? Do they want to risk going beyond April 1 without a budget? Do they want to “take on” the governor directly? Do they want to risk antagonizing core constituents? Who are the members more afraid of: the governor, their constituents? Or, the speaker?

Sheldon Silver ruled with an iron fist, he probably kept a copy of The Prince at his bedside, and one of his favorite quotes might have been,

“It is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Why am I quoting Machiavelli? Was he a totalitarian or a human rights respecting republican (Read Phillip Bobbitt, The Garments of the Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made (2013)).

Heastie, the speaker, needs the total support of his members, the 105 democratic members of the Assembly, the conference. He has to create a team, a united group who supports the speaker without reservations, a team who knows they cannot back away, that unless they stand up to the governor he will roll over them. You gain loyalty by acts, by making decisions that support your members.

Those of you who have played sports or played in an orchestra or danced in a company understand leadership, under the synergy created by teamwork, the sum is greater than the parts in a synergistic organism.

Five Regents are seeking re-appointment and there are two vacancies. In the Westchester-Rockland judicial district the speaker clearly approved of the Assembly democrats making the selection. Open interviews were conducted in Westchester, about a dozen applicants. Apparently the legislature will select Judith Johnson, a retired superintendent who is highly regarded across the counties, who was the choice a majority of the legislators.

Robert Bennett was the Regents from the Buffalo area, Bennett served as the chancellor prior to Merryl Tisch, served on the Board for twenty years, and his bio on the SED website recounts a long and illustrious career. Recently Bennett has begun to antagonize more and more sectors within the community, supporting charter schools, supporting the Common Core, supporting testing and, mostly, unconditionally supporting former Commissioner King. At the Albany interviews Assembly member Ryan skewered Bennett. Bennett proudly announced he was heading a task force to review special ed regulations, Ryan asked Bennett to what extent he was responsible for the failures of the last decade, and Bennett stumbled.

The Sunday Buffalo News reports that Regent Bennett has withdrawn and will support Catherine Fisher Collins,

Dr. Collins is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and the first African American nurse practitioner to graduate from the University of Buffalo’s School of Nursing Nurse Practitioner program. In addition she holds three certifications in health education.

The new speaker understands power, he defers to his members to fill a vacancy and is willing to dump a twenty year incumbent to acknowledge bubbling anger among voters.

Heastie is building a team, a team willing to follow their leader wherever he chooses to go, to the edge of the cliff, and, if necessary, over the edge.

Cuomo will bully, threaten, and try to undercut the speaker; veiled threats, not so veiled threats, waiting for the speaker to take whatever is on the table at the eleventh hour.

Senate majority leader Skelos has his own list, how much does he cede to Cuomo, and, can he partner with Heastie against Cuomo?

Speaker Heastie is the most powerful Black elected official in New York State, and, in time, potentially, one of the most powerful in the nation. Standing up to an incumbent governor only increases creds, and standing up to an incumbent governor and losing reduces his image.

Cuomo wants to be standing on the podium early on the morning of April 1st announcing the fifth straight on time budget, how can he reach an agreement without appearing to lose face? Can he “win the battle and lose the war,” by defeating Heastie and alienate Black and liberal voters?

In the Cuomo camp some advisors are probably telling him to follow the Scott Walker path, attack public employee unions unrelentingly, after all, it may be a path to the presidency. Other advisors will remind Cuomo, he’s running as a democrat, not a tea party republican.

I don’t know how Cuomo, Heastie and Skelos get to that April 1st stage, I don’t know the deals, the trade-offs, I don’t know how the questions of teacher evaluation, testing, tenure and “receiverships” will be resolved, for the three men in a room, the endgame, how the public views the “winners” and “losers” will drive the decisions.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger, but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli