A June Primary Election Primer: Can I vote for dozens of candidates in June? Can I vote for more than one candidate for the same office?

The simple answer: Yes

First, you must be registered as a Democrat or Republican? If not, you’re out of luck, in New York State only voters who are registered in a party can vote in a primary election, the election to decide who is on the November ballot.

If you are not a registered voter or not registered in a party you can fill out and submit the registration form here.

If you’re unsure whether you’re registered you can use the use the site here to check.

Why the primary election is in June, wasn’t it held in September?  Yes, however, the federal courts ruled that the September primary for federal offices violated the law,

U.S. District Court judge ruled that the primary date violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which says overseas service members must get absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election to make sure the ballots can be sent back and counted in time.

An August primary was out of the question, the turnout would be slim, and, holding two primaries, one for federal offices and another for state/city offices would be expensive and confusing; it was decided that all primaries be held on the last Tuesday in June

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 22nd, there are three ways to cast your ballot.

  • early voting (check date and sites here)
  • absentee ballot (application site here, check “temporary illness” box)
  • in-person on June 22nd, polls open from 6 am to 9 pm in New York City. You will receive a notification of polling place by mail before the election or at one of the links above.

Which offices will be on the ballot?

Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Boro Presidents and City Council.

New York City is a “strong mayor” model, the mayor appoints all the commissioners including the school superintendent (called the chancellor). Under the current configuration the mayor appoints a majority of the school board effectively appointing the school district leader.

The Comptroller is the chief financial officer; in other cities that role would fall under the mayor. The Comptroller does “manage” the five pubic employee pension systems, a key role for city employees.

The Public Advocate chairs the City Council and is next in line for mayor; otherwise, limited authority.

The Boro President has authority over land use, and very little else. The major function is a cheer leader for the borough. The boroughs combined to create New York City in 1898 and the boro presidents are a vestige of the past.

The City Council has 51 members, almost all democrats, and chooses a Speaker from among their members. The Speaker is the second most powerful person city government.

The City Council must approve the city budget; the fiscal year is July 1 – June 30, the budgeting process is already underway and usually by mid-June the mayor and the Council agree on the budget. 

You can access the candidates in each district here, and, the site includes statements from each candidate, you can use the link above to identify your district, just have to type in your address

Check out agendas of the Council here.

Council member salary is $148.500.

The 340-page City Charter is the governing document of the city, and has been frequently amended by voters. See City Charter here.

How can I vote for more than one person?

New York City elections are Rank Choice Voting elections.

For many years citywide elections required at least 40% of the vote to be elected. If no candidate received 40% the top two candidates ran again three weeks after the first election – runoffs were expensive and the voter turnout low. In council elections with multiple candidates the winner commonly had only 20-30% of the vote.

Voting systems vary widely from nation to nation. In Israel you vote for a party, not a candidate. The party ranks their candidates; for example, if a party receives 10% of the total vote in 120 member legislature the party would receive 12 seats in the parliament, the top twelve members on the party list. See Israeli system here.

The New York City Council was elected by proportional representation from 1936-1947: read the interesting account here

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) allows voters to vote for up to five candidates in priority order – you rank your preferences from one to five, or, you can vote for fewer than five, or, only a single candidate. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the lowest vote-getter’s ballots are “exhausted”; their ballots are transferred to the # 2 choice on their ballot. Candidate ballots are exhausted until one candidate has more than 50% of the vote. See an additional explanation here.

The change to Ranked Choice Voting was approved by 73% of voters in 2019. The theory is elections would be less negative, candidates would run more positive campaigns and combined with public financing more women and people of color would run.

Almost all of the Council races have between five and ten candidates each.

New York City has public campaign financing, the city will provide 8:1 matches, if a candidate raises $10,000 the city will provide $80,000.. See the rules here.

Whose running? We won’t know definitely for a few weeks, petitions were submitted recently and it will take a few weeks to certify candidates.

Mayoral candidates:  https://www.curbed.com/article/everyone-running-for-new-york-city-mayor.html

Comptroller candidates: https://politicsny.com/2021/03/16/meet-the-comptroller-candidates/

Boro President Candidates:

* Brooklyn:   https://www.brooklynpaper.com/brooklyn- -president-candidates-2021/

* Manhattan:  https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9753-candidates-declared-2021-manhattan-borough-president-race-democratic-primary

* Bronx: https://gothamist.com/news/who-running-bronx-borough-president-2021

* Queens: https://gothamist.com/news/whos-running-queens-borough-president

Council Candidates: https://politicsny.com/election-primer/

On Wednesday, April 7th the UFT will interview (members only) the “Final Four,” (Adams, Stringer, Wiley and Yang). Over the last month the union has interviewed twelve candidates, and asked members to vote for their favorite at the end of each session. The NY Post reports,

The June 22 Democratic primary race for mayor is still “wide open” — with half of voters still undecided, a new poll released Wednesday reveals.

Entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is in the lead, but with support of just 16 percent of likely Democratic voters, the survey by Fontas Advisors/Core Decision Analytics found.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is in second with 10 percent backing, followed by Maya Wiley, a former top legal counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, with 6 percent. City Comptroller Scott Stringer with 5 percent …

Hopefully you’ve found my musing useful.  Place questions or views in the comment box

Happy Easter

How would you recommend spending the billions of American Rescue Act dollars? Everyone seems to have ideas(s).

New York City will be deciding how to spend billions of education dollars within the next few months, and, everybody has ideas.

The interim chancellor (the term used for superintendent in New York City) immediately suggested summer school, as did many others (including the new law). The law also says the dollars must be spent on “evidence-based” interventions: a challenge.

The evidence that summer school is effective is slim and discouraging.

Research studies done before the pandemic show that summer school usually don’t accomplish its purpose of raising reading or math achievement. 

 “Generally, summer programs are not effective because they don’t really engage young people and they’re not run well,”

Even if the evidence is discouraging we’re going to have summer school: will it be the same old review and remediate (“boring”) or an interesting program that excites kids?   I would suggest summer school is project-based. Spend the last two weeks in June selecting a project and the summer working on a standards-based project. Make it fun, interesting, useful as a leg up for the next school year.

For the 21-22 school year the mayor suggested a three-K, pre-k for three year olds in all districts; currently the city is phasing in three-k programs in the poorest district. I applaud; I’m a big fan

The problem is the Biden federal dollars run out after the 24-25 school year; however, every dollar spent in three-k  saves you many remediation dollars in future years, and, possibly, averts the catastrophic consequences of falling years behind in the elementary school years.

The proposed Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act calls for federal funding for poverty children for kindergarten classes beginning the summer before kindergarten and continuing thought the summer after kindergarten. (Read bill here)

Is early childhood education beginning with three-year olds a good idea?

Some argue kids should not be “forced” into educational setting at early ages, it’s “developmentally inappropriate;” they should be allowed to play. I spent last April to August with a four year old boy. One day when you ask, “What’s the color of a banana?” he gleefully says, “yellow,” the next day he has no interest, he’s playing with his toys. The pace of development varies from day to day and even within days, you can see kids sucking up knowledge one day and other days engrossed in the work of a four year old, racing around the house as a race car driver. “School” offers the opportunity to both learn and play, and the two are commonly entangled.

France, the Netherlands and Denmark are among the highest achieving nations in the OECD and begin childcare/school very early: See France, “ecole maturelle here, Netherlands here and Denmark here.

You can always take a look at the What Works Clearinghouse.

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the existing research on different programsproductspractices, and policies in education. Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions. We focus on the results from high-quality research to answer the question “What works in education?”

You can check out scores of programs and what the usually peer-reviewed research says about the program.

Mike Petrilli, from the right leaning Fordham Institute is publishing the Acceleration Imperative: A Plan to Address Elementary Schools’ Unfinished :Learning in the Wake of COVID-19.

new resource from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Acceleration Imperative: A Plan to Address Elementary Students’ Unfinished Learning in the Wake of COVID-19, aims to give the nation’s chief academic officers and other educators a head start on planning for that recovery, with a particular focus on high-poverty elementary schools.

The recommendations are specific, “Many students — especially the youngest children in the highest-need schools — will need extra help coming out of the pandemic, particularly in such forms as extended learning time, high-dosage tutoring and expanded mental-health supports” and I don’t disagree, I also ask why haven’t these interventions been more successful in the past?

The teacher union (UFT) also has a list of programs,

The 5-point UFT plan to help students recover from the pandemic


Teams of academic intervention specialists and social workers/psychologists would be dispatched to schools to work directly with students suffering academic losses and psychological effects because of the pandemic.


A pilot program would be created in 100 of the city’s neediest schools to reduce class sizes by one-third:


The city Department of Education should plan to provide as much in-person, rather than remote, instruction as possible. All current COVID-19 safety and testing protocols must remain in place for any in-person summer programs.


As part of the reopening process, high schools should dedicate time during the first week of return to identify students in crisis, college and career readiness/post-secondary planning for seniors, and social-emotional and counseling needs.


The program is designed to help teachers make the connections between trauma, stress, self-awareness, classroom environment and student behavior, and will recommend classroom practices to deal with students’ stress and to identify students in need of additional support.

The Department of Education should be engaged in these policies on a regular basis.

On June 22nd the ten or so (pre)con/tenders will face-off in the mayoral Democratic primary; for the first time Ranked Choice Voting (you can “rank” up to five candidates in priority order), absentee ballots on demand and public financing (see rules here). Check out the candidates views on education. A majority of voters are undecided.

Chalkbeat interviewed the leading candidates, read their educational programs/ ideas

Jump to Democratic candidates: Eric AdamsArt ChangShaun DonovanKathryn GarciaRay McGuireDianne MoralesScott StringerMaya WileyAndrew Yang

Jump to Republican candidates: Fernando MateoSara Tirschwell

The UFT (members only), has interviewed a dozen of the candidates, check out video snippets of the interviews here.

That’s right, after the primary we’ll have a Democratic candidate, in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, having to wait six months to take office, in the meantime de Blaso still sits in City Hall until December 31st.

In the 90’s the Chancellor’s District and in de Blasio’s first term “Renewal,” threw programs at teachers and students, hundreds of millions of dollars. The lesson: “programs” without school leader/teacher buy-in do not assure sustainable change.

Scott Marion, at the Center for Assessment is one of the most thoughtful educators,

… real and sustained change only occurs when actors in the system take ownership of the need to change, as well as the methods necessary to bring about that change. 

Will mayors and superintendents encourage/allow the “actors in the system,” aka, teachers and school leaders, to take ownership of the “need to change?”

I’m a glass half full type of guy.

Will New York City Reimagine Education or Waste a Generational Opportunity?

We’ve been told for decades we can’t do anything about poverty, we can’t change property tax-based school funding, and we have to use our teaching skills to raise achievement.  Sadly states and school districts have relied on top-down edicts and standardized testing, teacher voice is absent.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, two Democratic Senators are elected in Georgia and President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is law.

The plan attacks childhood poverty. We may be the richest country in the world, we have turned out back on children.

  ,For more than half a century, we have failed to address child poverty in this country. This neglect has resulted in negative outcomes on child well-being and threatens our nation’s future. A child who grows up in poverty is far less likely to perform as well as their classmates in school, more likely to have food insecurity, more vulnerable to homelessness, and more likely to be subjected to violence, abuse, and neglect. While the United States proudly leads the world in science, technology, innovation, and sports, we sadly also leader in infant mortality, violence against children, and child poverty. Despite lots of expressed concern for children, our nation’s leaders have failed make needed investments in child well-being.

The Organization for Economics, Culture and Development, (OECD) studies the forty plus industrialized nations and takes a deep dive into the question: does income poverty affect child outcomes 

Childhood Poverty in the OECD?

The links between family poverty and subsequent child outcomes have been investigated for decades, Comprehensive literature surveys emphasize that children from lower-income households have worse outcomes at later ages for a range of topics such as: scoring lower on tests of cognitive skill in early childhood, being more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attain tertiary education, the evidence being strongest and most abundant. Children from low income families are also showing more behaviour problems than others. The evidence on physical health, as well as on intermediate outcomes such as parenting and parental mental health is more limited.

Attacking childhood poverty must come early in a child’s life.

The timing of poverty matters, and for some outcomes later in life, particularly those related to achievement skills and cognitive outcomes, poverty early in a child’s life is particularly harmful

Beyond belief is the richest country in the world is at the top of the list in childhood poverty

In Finland and Iceland the child income poverty rate is only around 5-6%, while in Denmark it is less than 3%.  In the United Kingdom, child poverty rates declined from 2000 to 2013 as a result of policy reform that focused on reducing child poverty…

  The last group consists of OECD countries where child poverty is significantly above the OECD average. …rates rise to about 20% in Mexico and the United States.

While we can expect childhood poverty to wane the American Rescue Plan also provide immediate relief, billions of dollars now.

  . New York City public schools are projected to receive $4.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief, bringing a significant financial boost as education officials plan for the fall.

The money comes from a sprawling, $1.9 trillion relief package … But big questions remain, including how state and city officials will use this new infusion of cash — roughly $4,500 more per student — to help schools rebound from a year of unprecedented disruption.

… one-fifth of the money to districts must be spent on “evidence-based” practices to combat “learning loss,” which amounts to about $900 million for New York City.

 Beyond announcing a vague framework for providing extra academic and mental health support, the mayor has not yet shared many details or the projected cost of such plans. Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, in a recent interview with Chalkbeat, said more answers would come soon as to whether individual schools will be able to choose how to spend the money or whether the education department will issue directives.

Since the stimulus must be distributed through the federal government’s Title 1 formula, a large portion of the dollars will go to districts that serve many students from low-income families. In the nation’s largest system, about 73% of students are from low-income families, and the city will receive about half of the $8.9 billion set aside for the state’s education system. The money can be used until 2024.

A lame duck mayor struggling to repair his damaged legacy, a dozen candidates for mayor throwing brickbats, a governor desperately trying to remain in office: what kind of plan will emerge?

The mayor’s last attempt to turnaround the 100 lowest achieving schools was a disaster.

After making an ambitious promise to rapidly turn around nearly 100 of New York City’s lowest performing schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged … that after four years, almost $800 million, and a mixed record of success, a new approach is needed.

That new approach, it turns out, looks a lot like the old one.

Ironically an innovative approach to school organization has both thrived, and been ignored; more than ignored, Chancellor Carranza tried, without success, to squelch the project.

The Affinity District, 150 schools working with six not-for-profits function as school districts within the greater school district, akin to Charter Management Organizations. The organizations provide professional and leadership development along with a safe space for school leaders and teachers.  Many of the Affinity District schools participate in the teacher union (UFT) PROSE initiative.

The Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program was established as part of the contract between the UFT, CSA and the DOE. The PROSE program enables schools who have a demonstrated record of effective school leadership, collaboration, and trust to implement innovative practices outside of existing rules.

Norm Fruchter and his team at the NYU Metro Center examine the Affinity District in depth. Read here.

Does it make sense to ask the leaders of the two largest support organizations in the Affinity District, Mark Dunetz the leader of New Visions for Public  Schools and Richard Kahan, the leader of the Urban Assembly to sit down with Michael Mulgrew, the leader of the teacher union (UFT) and hammer out a plan for the future?

I know, I know, unlikely.

Next blog:  what specific programs would I recommend.

A School System Adrift: New York City Schools Search for Direction as the Political Landscape Evolves

The theory of action that describes the Board and the successor Department of Education are known as Newton’s First Laws of Motion … sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction.

If you ask upper management in the Department why they’re following a particular policy the standard answer is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” Newton’s First Law of Motion –the law of inertia.

Meisha Porter begins her tenure on March 15th, the third chancellor to lead the Department of Education during de Blasio’s seven plus years in office.

Can she change the direction of the leviathan?

Education policy has become inexorably intertwined with mayoral politics.

On June 22nd voters will select the Democratic Party candidates for Mayor along with the Comptroller, 37 of the 51 members of the City Council and three out of five Borough Presidents. For the following six months de Blasio will be a “lame duck” mayor and the acting chancellor will be dancing between the outgoing mayor and the incoming mayor; not exactly an ideal situation.

The NYS Education Department used to identify the lowest achieving schools as Schools Under Registration Review SURR), a team spent four days in an identified school interviewing everyone, observing teachers and writing a “findings-recommendations” report.  I was the union guy on the teams.

At one of my visits we arrived at the school and the school secretary apologized, there was an emergency, the principal would be late.  The principal arrived,  frazzled, “Excuse me, I had to cover classes, three vacancies and four teachers are absent.”

The meeting began and the team leader asked, “What qualities are you looking for in a new teacher?”  A reasonable question; considering the vacancies. The principal blurted, “They come every day and blood doesn’t run out from under the door.”

Sometimes I think a description of education policy today.

A year into the pandemic a majority of kids in NYC have chosen to attend remotely, schools are opening and closing every day due to COVID positive tests and testing protocols and the 485 high schools are scheduled to “open” on March 22nd. we can expect the continuing opening and closing of schools.

The new chancellor has a long, long list of questions on her “to-do” list.

Will the city move forward with school integration plans?  See NYU Metro Center blog post here.

Due to COVID Gifted and Talent tests are cancelled for this year, replaced by teacher recommendations and perhaps a lottery. Will the tests return next year?

Will the Department implement the Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education Curriculum? See here and CRSE Scorecard here.

How is the Department assessing “learning loss?” Will every kid take a test?

Can the Department actually run expanded in-person summer schools? 

What will September look like? Will there be a remote option? Simply return to a September, 2019 opening?

Can the “new” chancellor address these and the myriad other issues? Who is the “real” Meisha Porter? The one described in the NY Post (See here and here) or the New York Times here?

If Rick Patino can make it back to March Madness maybe Rudy Crew and Kathleen Cashin are waiting in the wings?  A Moses-Jesus-Buddha-Mohammad like figure with time on their hands?

The one constant: 1.1 million kids and their teachers fighting every day to provide the best education and the best outcomes possible under trying, to be polite, circumstances.

School Openings: Political Gamesmanship Collides with Sound Educational Policy.

President Biden set a target of school re-openings within his first hundred days in office; however, the decision to open schools is local; the 14,000 school districts across the nation have the authority to open and close schools. The national teacher unions (NEA, AFT) do not have the authority either; the local unions within school districts “negotiate” school openings.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) produced a “Roadmap to Safely Open Schools” (Read here)

Randi Weingarten, the AFT President favors reopenings, with safeguards..

Education Next, a widely read website was prescient, Schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019–20 academic year but will reopen in the 2020–21 academic year (albeit with the potential of localized, rolling closures for 14–28 days triggered by additional waves of infection,

The Los Angeles School District has been closed since the pandemic hit in March, COVID positive rates in Los Angeles remain high as well as hospitalizations and deaths. The teacher union (UTLA) has been adamant, has threatened a strike and only in the last few days agreed to a phased reopening plan.

The conservative media has pummeled teacher unions.

The New York City teacher union (UFT) threatened a “safety strike” in August, school opening was delayed until safety protocols were agreed upon, school opening in hybrid model, positivity rates increased,  schools closed, and reopened with mandatory testing rules and the closing of individual schools based on positive tests.

On February 25th middle schools reopened, with mayoral fanfare, and many school returned to remote after a few days, positive tests. In spite of the shaky reopening Mayor deBlasio announced high schools would reopen in March 22nd. as well as non-contact sports.

Across the city many recently opened middle schools have gone back to remote due to testing protocols, for two days, four days, ten days, depending on the individual circumstances. The Department of Education has been silent.

Scheduling middle and high schools has been a nightmare. Thousands of teachers have accommodations due to medical conditions and are fully remote. Even though a school is open some teacher are remote, in some schools students sit in classrooms while the teacher is on the computer screen. For all-remote schools students have been on Google Classroom since March: how will schools handle moving to hybrid and full in person models?

Only 20% of high school students have chosen in-school instruction, school leaders have to schedule two parallel schools, a very small in-person school and a remote school four times as large, with some teachers with accommodations fully remote, yes, a challenge for school leaders.

A key for every classroom is routine and continuity. Teachers develop relationships with students, they know the academic shortcomings, they know how to prod, that little “nudge’ that encourages the student to dig deeper.

The discontinuity, the opening, closing and reopening of schools is disastrous for students.

With each series of openings and closing more parents choose to keep their children remote. Continuity is important for parents.

School reopenings are feathers in the caps of electeds; a sign of an effective mayor.

How will school openings at the end of March impact instruction?

In New York City the mayor had to satisfy the teacher union safety requirements: mandatory in school testing (if a parent does not sign a testing consent slip their child must remain remote), teachers are prioritized for vaccinations, positive tests require school closings.

How many of the 20% of high school students will return in-person? The mayor announced that half of high schools will return full time, the reason: so many kids are on remote the school won’t have social distancing issues.  How about the high schools with thousands of kids? Is moving to hybrid more effective than fully remote?  The complexities in schools with thousands of kids are mind-boggling.

Has anyone in the city addressed how the city is going to administer the grades 3-8 standardized tests?  On Monday the Board of Regents will unveil plans. How about Regents Examinations?  Federal law (Every Student Succeeds Act) requires a test in English, Math or Science; the vast majority of high schools seniors have probably taken one Regents Exam. BTW, for the ESSA requirement, do they have to pass the exam?

All with a new chancellor, with meager high level leadership experience. You noticed the announcements are made by the mayor, a mayor who more than hinted about his interest in running for governor in 2022.

Mayoral control curdles sensible educational policy.

My last blog: https://mets2006.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/nyc-school-chancellor-leaves-the-toxic-intersection-of-mayoral-control-and-mayoral-politics/

The mayor also announced that he expects no remote classes in September. The mayor will be in the last months of his term, a Democratic candidate will already be selected who may have announced they intend to seek a new chancellor.

Is anybody planning for September?

NYC School Chancellor Leaves: The Toxic Intersection of Mayoral Control and Mayoral Politics

Richard Carranza, the New York City School Chancellor unexpectedly announced he was leaving his position.

The cognoscenti were not surprised, for months the chancellor and the mayor have been dueling; it was only a matter of time before the chancellor packed it in.

Highly effective leaders select subordinates and give them the authority to carry out their role. Interestingly a number of the mayoral hopefuls had major roles in city government: Kathryn Garcia was the NYS Sanitation Commissioner, Sean Donovan the HPD (Housing Preservation and Development) commissioner and Maya Wiley, the mayor’s counsel, all served with distinction. Micromanaging schools has a sad and long history; mayors claimed credit for positive education news and blamed and fired chancellors to deflect bad news.

Unfortunately from day one the mayor attempted to keep a tight rein on the Department of Education. He selected Carmen Farina, a retired Department deputy chancellor and friend to temporarily fill the job; she stayed for de Blasio’s entire first term. Farina’s one major initiative, the Renewal Schools, pumping mega dollars into the hundred lowest achieving schools was a dismal failure. Read here.

Renewal’s ideas were untested, and, almost from the start, the program was hobbled by bureaucracy and a tight timeline imposed by a mayor eager to show on a national stage that schools could improve without censure, according to internal documents and interviews with more than two dozen people connected to the program.

Renewal had few measurable effects on academic performance over two years, according to a study by the research organization RAND Corporation that was commissioned by the administration. (Read RAND report here).

The search for the quick, positive headlines, without any follow through characterizes the mayor’s tenure.

While sharply critical of Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT) he failed to take any action regarding the five small schools not covered by the Hecht-Calandra law who use the test.

The August, 2019 Mayor’s School Diversity Task Force Report called for the ending of Gifted and Talent programs (Report here); the mayor both applauded and ignored the report.

A schizophrenic attempt to mollify the critics of the Gifted & Talented testing and White/Asian parents whose kids attended the program; only COVID preventing the testing.

Educationally the chancellor appeared to be a throw back to another era, instead of moving decisions closer to the students, closer to schools he created executive chancellors, another layer moving the chancellor further away from schools. The chancellor favored frequent testing of students, tried to abolish the Affinity District, a group of 150 successful schools who retained authority to make decisions at the local level. (Read NYU Metro Center blog here).  Testing your way to higher achieving schools is and has been a futile pathway for decades.

As the mayor and chancellor moved further and further apart Michael Mulgrew, the teacher union leader, became the facilitator.

Cuomo and de Blasio battled, de Blasio and Carranza bickered, Mulgrew nimbly dodged bullets, some from his members, and crafted safe school opening plans, with frequent testing and teacher preference for vaccinations. (Read a description of Mulgrew’s agility here)

Mulgrew has not been shy; he has both threatened “safety” strikes and engaged a range of experts to drive school opening metrics. The road has been bumpy; frequent membership Town Halls have allowed members to be engaged. At the same time thousands of members are participating in mayoral candidate forums and teacher-led teams are recommending endorsements for city council positions.

Mulgrew and the union are emerging as the one stable, consistent voice across the educational landscape.

The mayor selected Meisha Ross Porter, one of the nine executive superintendents to replace Carranza.

Chalkbeat and the New York Times have laudatory articles, See articles here and here.

The NY Post, on the other hand, describes a party that celebrated her appointment as executive chancellor that was “over the top.”  (Read here).

Porter indicated she intended to reopen high schools before the end of the term; a Herculean task that likely would result in many changes of teachers, not a great idea in the middle of a term.

I reserve judgment.

It is unlikely that the mayor will search for a permanent chancellor in the waning days of his term. A system adrift may be better than a system battered from all sides.

Mulgrew will play a key role in driving decisions relating to “COVID loss” and the September 21-22 school year.

On January 1st, 2022 a new mayor, a new comptroller, four new borough presidents and 37 new city council members will be sworn in; Michael Mulgrew will still be the leader of the 120,000 union members.

Will Secretary of Education Cardona Grant Standardized Test Waivers to States?

Secretary of Education Designee Cardona testified at his Senate Education Committee confirmation hearing (Watch here); committee members have five minutes to ask and receive answers: a preview of Cardona policies? Maybe. One of the first questions was whether he would grant waivers allowing states not to administer standardized grades 3-8 tests. Chalkbeat reports,

Miguel Cardona sent mixed messages… how he would approach federally required standardized testing this year,

“If the conditions under COVID-19 prevent a student from being in school in person, I don’t think we need to be bringing students in just to test them,” But he suggested he still believes testing could be useful this year.

“If we don’t assess where our students are and their level of performance, it’s going to be difficult for us to provide targeted support and resource allocation in the manner that can best support the closing of the gaps that have been exacerbated due to this pandemic,”

Senator Burr followed up by asking whether states should be able to make their own decisions.

Cardona responded: “I feel that states should not only have an opportunity to weigh in on how they plan on implementing it and what’s best for their students, but also the accountability measures and whether or not those assessments should really be tied into any accountability measures.”

His comments don’t provide clarity on how he would approach this issue, suggesting that Cardona is sympathetic to both the arguments for and against testing this year. But his statement hints that he may look for ways to allow states to decide what to do with testing data without eliminating testing completely.

Last year the pandemic exploded only weeks before the scheduled tests and Secretary deVos granted waivers, this year we are more than two months removed form the dates of the tests.

Many are asking that tests should be given to measure “learning loss.”

A new term, “learning loss,” McKinsey Associates predicts, substantial learning losses, especially for students of color,

Black and Hispanic students continue to be more likely to remain remote and are less likely to have access to the prerequisites of learning—devices, internet access, and live contact with teachers. Left unaddressed, these opportunity gaps will translate into wider achievement gaps….  the cumulative learning loss could be substantial, … with students on average likely to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this school year. Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss.

CREDO, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford chooses the term “COVID slide“and targets the “slide” data in 19 states.

Will some sort of testing be required to determine the severity of “COVID Slide”?  Should the feds require such testing or is it the responsibility of the state or school district, or, is “testing for understanding” the ordinary work of teachers?

Why are states required to give grades 3-8 tests?  A little history: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act   (ESEA) was passed in the 1965 and Title I of the Act provides what we refer to as Title 1, billions of dollars targeted to poverty schools, poverty defined by percentages of students eligible for free and reduced lunch- btw, a crude tool. The law was reauthorized every five years with minor changes, until 2002.

No Child Left Behind  (NCLB), a bipartisan law required annual testing, and, there was no great uproar, until Arne Duncan. The Common Core and Race to the Top attempted to change the nature of teaching in every classroom, an attempt that exploded into the test Opt Out movement and vigorous opposition to the required tests, by teachers, and, for many, testing in general.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), the reauthorization of ESEA made many changes in the law; why did it retain the annual testing requirements?

Wade Henderson, the leader of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of over 200 organizations was a powerful advocate of testing; Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers called for less frequent testing, Henderson was emphatic, and prevailed,

Tests should track students’ progress toward state standards, and those standards have to align with what students need to know to succeed in college or in the workforce. Without data to show that students are on track, it could be all too easy for disadvantaged children to receive a substandard education.

Once confirmed, Cardona will confront the testing issue.

Diane Ravitch opposes the whole idea of standardized testing (Read here)

, the standardized tests have no diagnostic value.. Teachers never learn what their individual students do or do not know. The tests do not help the students or their teachers. They do not reduce inequity. They do not narrow or close achievement gaps. Because of the tests, schools have sacrificed the arts, civics, history, science, even recess. They have harmed the quality of education.

Some argue that teachers know their students and tests aren’t necessary; however, inter-rater reliability is a challenge, different teachers have different standards. (Read evaluation of Vermont Portfolio program here).

The Center for Assessment does not recommend large scale tests to identify/quantify learning loss (Read entire article here – an excellent analysis).

… professional development on good classroom assessment practice is much more promising in addressing COVID-related achievement gaps than an approach that tries first to solve the learning loss measurement problem within the schooling parameters of a typical fall. In their EdWeek article, Hill and Loeb write that informal assessments by classroom teachers (such as those in a high-quality curriculum) are better than something more comprehensive at the beginning of the year.

The assessment question goes far beyond whether or not to grant waivers to states. Scott Marion, the Center for Assessment, ha s written thoughtfully about assessment, “Accountability as a Roadblock to Assessment Reform: Advocating for Changes to Federal Accountability Requirements to Enable Innovative Assessment,” (Read here)


Marion writes, Accountability must shift from a top-down approach that relies heavily on a single end-of-year test to one that recognizes and supports the more holistic nature of learning and assessment reform and goes on to mirror Diane Ravitch,

There is a long history of negative effects of accountability tests on classroom instruction because, in part, teachers create activities to mimic the types of test items on the summative test, and district leaders overemphasize interim tests as part of test preparation. Therefore, firewalling the accountability test, while well-intentioned, could work at cross purposes to the innovative reform. 

Marion does not support abandoning evaluation,

 I am not advocating a laissez-faire approach to school accountability.

He is advocating “balanced assessment systems,” and discusses in detail in a policy paper, “The Challenges and Opportunities of Balanced Systems of Assessment,” (Read policy paper here)

What makes an assessment system balanced? An assessment system is balanced when the assessments in the system are coherently linked through clearly specified learning targets, they comprehensively provide multiple sources of evidence to support educational decision-making, and they continuously document student progress over time.

Soon to be confirmed as Secretary of Education Cardona should grant waivers to states, the current testing system is deeply flawed under the best of circumstances; hopefully Cardona will begin a discussion of an assessment system that is useful to classroom teachers, parents, school and school district leaders and the public.

Can President Biden Reduce Childhood Poverty?

Last summer the presidential campaign was in full swing and while were sheltering in place; candidate Biden released his education policy platform,

As president, Joe Biden will provide educators the support and respect they need and deserve and invest in all children from birth, so that regardless of their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability, they are prepared to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. He will:

  • Support our educators by giving them the pay and dignity they deserve.
  • Invest in resources for our schools so students grow into physically and emotionally healthy adults and educators can focus on teaching.
  • Ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability.
  • Provide every middle and high school student a path to a successful career.
  • Start investing in our children at birth.

While lacking specifics the policy statements encompassed what most of us believe in.

On his first day in office January 21,st President Biden signed an Executive Order (Executive Order on Supporting the  Re-opening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers, Read here).

First, the health and safety of children, students, educators, families, and communities is paramount.  Second, every student in the United States should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, during and beyond the pandemic.

… help create the conditions for safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible; mitigate learning loss caused by the pandemic; and address educational disparities and inequities that the pandemic has created and exacerbated.  

… provide, evidence-based guidance to assist States and elementary and secondary schools in deciding whether and how to reopen, and how to remain open, for in-person learning; and in safely conducting in-person learning, including by implementing mitigation measures such as cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing; 

… provide advice to … local education agencies, and elementary and secondary schools regarding distance and online learning, blended learning, and in-person learning; and the promotion of mental health, social-emotional well-being, and communication with parents and families;

Once again, we all probably agree, these are vital and welcome steps.

On the January 26th President Biden issued an Executive Order dealing with Racial Equity,

 I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough.  We need to open the promise of America to every American.  And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government. 

The educational twitter-sphere are asking whether he can actually open schools in 100 days, whether Biden/Cardona will cancel standardized tests, or, perhaps ending standardized testing permanently.  Since Betsy deVos granted waivers to states to postpone standardized tests, for this year I’m sure the Secretary of Education nominee, after conformation, will also grant waivers.

As I look over the education landscape, what is the one thing, the one policy that will have the most impact: reducing childhood poverty.

We began in the 1960’s with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, unfortunately under Nixon and his successors we lost our way. No Children Left Behind, a bi-partisan bill, moved us backwards, and sadly Obama’s Race to the Top turned schools into “test and punish” institutions.

The Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) collects a wealth of data about the forty plus most industrialized nations; one of the data points is childhood poverty

Finland has the lowest rate of childhood poverty among the industrialized nations: 3%, and, the United States near the top of the list: 23%.

In addition virtually no childhood poverty Finland has income equality, not the extremely wide ranges that we have.

Teachers are drawn from the top 10% of graduating classes, we draw from the lower half: lower salary and low prestige discourages students from selecting teaching as a profession, and, those do decide to teach commonly leave after a few years. In high poverty middle schools 40% of teachers leave with their first five years.

Yes, Finland has no standardized tests; it does have a rigorous, high stakes matriculation exam at the end of high school that determines post secondary opportunities.

See a detailed description of the Finland education system here

I think we can all agree, Finland has a wonderful education, if we want to replicate we have to begin with reducing childhood poverty.

Paul Krugman, the NY Times Nobel Prize winning columnist opines in his latest, “Helping Kids is a Very Good Idea,”

 Shouldn’t politicians who claim to be terribly worried about the future of America’s children support, you know, actually helping America’s children today?

That’s not a hypothetical question. Democrats are reportedly working on legislation that would offer monthly payments to most American families with children, and could, among other things, cut child poverty roughly in half.

Two years ago Andrew Yang was touting a Universal Basic Income (See NY Time discussion here), what appeared illusory might be hovering on the horizon, Democrats in the House are working on drafts of a bill, see details here, and, the NY Times reports are willing to push ahead with or without Republican support.

There are other core issues, reforming school funding at the state level, in New York State property tax rules, the wealthiest district receives the highest funding, by far.

COVID transmission rates, vaccinations dominate the media, if the rates fall, if vaccination rates increase, maybe school openings will take place prior to the end of the school year. If we simply return to pre-COVID schools we have to confront students who have been out of classrooms for over a school year.  The White-Students of Color gap will grow, we will be scrambling to make up for lost time, a Sisyphean task.

Reducing childhood poverty would be a giant step.

Inauguration in Troubled Times: Looking Back and Looking Forward: Lincoln, FDR and Biden

At noon on Wednesday, January 20th Joe Biden will raise his right hand and repeat the constitutional oath of office.

 “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Twenty-five thousand National Guard troops and thousands of other law enforcement officers will protect the ceremony and Washington DC.

The swearing in ceremony is traditionally followed by a speech laying out the goals of the new administration.

The nation is facing unparalleled crises, the pandemic raging across the nation, cities and states teetering on a fiscal abyss, staggering unemployment, we eagerly await the new administration.

In our new world of social media the Biden team did not wait until the inauguration address, the president-elect announced his plan in detail, as well as summaries of meetings of cabinet-nominees, see meeting with Miguel Cardona here.

Executive orders will roll out of the White House and legislative initiatives: will Congress join with or thwart the president?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took his oath of office on March 4, 1933, the nation in the depths of the Great Depression. The Stock Market crashed on October, 29, 1932; only six months after President Hoover assumed the presidency. Hoover was a traditional Republican; the government had no role in the economic cycles,

… wealth does not live in a vacuum and that people acting in their own self interest will eventually act in the best interests of the greater public good.

FDR and his advisors adopted the economic principles of John Maynard Keynes,

… classical economic theory did not provide a way to end depressions. Keynes argued that uncertainty caused individuals and businesses to stop spending and investing, and government must step in and spend money to get the economy back on track.

Eighty-eight years later many Republicans are still wedded to the economic views of Hoover.

FDR’s inauguration speech was only twenty minutes, watch segments of the speech here.

The speech was soaring,

… first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

threatening Congress to get on board, or else …

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption. But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

In his First Hundred Days an incredible number of bills became laws, the faith in the nation was restored.

Soon to be President Biden faces a fractured nation, 74 million Americans voted for his opponent and many of them believe the lies and seditious statements of the former occupant of the White House.

On March 4th, 1865, in the waning days of the Civil War, facing a fractured nation, Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address.

Lincoln reflected on his first inaugural address.

Does this sound familiar?

While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war — seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide …

And evangelicals….

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces;

tough words …

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it [war] continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

Lincoln’s desire to “bind up the nation’s wounds,”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9th and Lincoln was assassinated on April 15th 1865.

Would Lincoln have led the nation beyond Jim Crow, we’ll never know ….

Lincoln, FDR, and Joe Biden …. It may seem absurd.

We are at a moment in history,  COVID deaths approaching Civil War deaths, a seemingly endless battle with a persistent, invisible enemy, a nation divided, bitter antagonisms, Lincoln’s words resonate, how do we get beyond the “malice,” can we find “charity for all,”  “bind up the nation’s wounds,” can we “achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Without Lincoln the hopes for a new America disappeared behind Klu Klx Klan robes, we re-enslaved People of Color for more than a century. FDR provided hope, led the world against an assault on democracy around the world, will the heritage of Lincoln and FDR translate to Biden?

Let’s close with MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech”

NYS Board of Regents selects Lester Young as Chancellor

Over the last few years when an education leader was selected, i. e., head of NYC schools, or, US Secretary of Education I had to scramble to check them out.

The selection of Lester Young as chancellor of the Board of Regents culminates a lengthy career serving the children of the city and state of New York.

Back in the days of decentralization Dr. Young was the superintendent of District 13, a Brooklyn school district, mostly Afro-American with a corner in Brooklyn Heights. My colleague, Frank Lupo, was the union district rep. Frank and Dr. Young, in the roiling days of decentralization, when superintendents came and went, where school venality was all too common, District 13, lead by Dr. Young was a shining light.

When decentralization moved to mayoral control Lester led a new “experiment,” the city was divided into ten meg-districts, and, a range of services, guidance, attendance, community organizations, etc. worked with, not under, the regional superintendents, a leadership model that required enormous skills. I was working as a consultant in one of the regions and admired his patience and resolve.

The Board of Regents is a policy board, they don’t control dollars. Schools in New York State are funded by local property taxes and state aid. The formula always favored the high tax, aka, the wealthiest districts. In spite of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in spite of the victory, a pyrrhic victory. Governor Cuomo ignored the courts and the litigants are back in court.

Lester, quietly, persistently, collected legislative allies, the Regents, under Lester’s leadership, created a task force and the legislature funded My Brother’s Keeper; taking an Obama initiative and moving it statewide.(See NYS MBK program here).

Curriculum has always been the responsibility of school districts, with 700 school districts in the state, ranging from hundreds of small rural districts to the Big Five, including New York City, the push and tug between local independence and the role of the State Education Department resulted in constant conflict. Under Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner David Steiner the state did establish EngageNY, open source curriculum modules, some districts adopted, other ignored.

Two years ago, led by Chancellor Betty Rosa, and Lester as chair of the K-12 Regents Committee, a task force was convened and the Board of Regents moved forward to adopt a Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education framework (See State Ed site here).

In his acceptance speech this morning Lester thanked, first, his wife, and his career mentors, if we’re wise, and, humble, we should know that the ladder is long with many rungs, if we’ve learned properly we know to listen, to respect, to adopt what we can, to continue to learn and to teach.

The Board of Regents made an extraordinary selection. And, be careful on the Harley