Diane, Joel and Aaron Joust: Who is “Right”? Why We Need a Robust Independent Peer Reviewed Assessment/Evaluation Organization.


As the days tick toward the end of the NYS legislative session the school governance/mayoral control controversy moves, incrementally, towards that front burner..
In an op ed in the NY Times on April 10th Diane Ravitch  questions the success of mayoral control,
 …. the record on mayoral control of schools is unimpressive. Eleven big-city school districts take part in the federal test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Two of the lowest-performing cities — Chicago and Cleveland — have mayoral control. The two highest-performing cities — Austin, Tex., and Charlotte, N.C. — do not.
Diane goes on to challenge the claims of the administration, as she has done for a number of years. Are graduation rate pumped up by credit recovery? State exam grades have gone up over the entire state … and an easier test. Our high school graduates do poorly at CUNY, the college destination for most of our graduates. Ravitch does not call for a return to the past, but
This is not to say that Albany should eliminate mayoral control — nobody wants to return to the status quo of the ’90s. However, as legislators refine the law, they should establish clear checks and balances. The mayor should be authorized to appoint an independent Board of Education, whose members would serve for a set term. Candidates for the board should be evaluated by a blue-ribbon panel so that no mayor can stack it with friends. That board should appoint the chancellor, and his or her first responsibility must be to the children and their schools, not to the mayor.
Chancellor Klein shot back on April 15th with a letter to the editor, challenging Ravitch.
Diane Ravitch essentially proposes an independent school board that appoints the chancellor — and a return to the bad old days when divided decision-making and a lack of accountability produced decades of failure for students, particularly the poorest in our city.

The national tests  (NAEP) she cites are not the measure of federal accountability, are given only to a small sample of schools, and are not aligned with New York State standards and therefore with what we teach in our classroom.

Aaron Pallas (“Skoolboy”), a blogger and professor at Teacher College parses the Klein letter in a detail, questioning many of his assertions, especially the trashing of the NAEP, and concludes,

 New York City has been participating voluntarily in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment since 2002, so presumably the Chancellor believes that there is something to be learned from the performance of New York City’s children on the NAEP assessments.  And the Department of Education’s press office has had no qualms about crowing about NAEP results when the Department believes there is good news to share.  But a Department, and a Chancellor, truly committed to transparency would be willing to acknowledge the bad with the good, and present a balanced picture of successes and failures.  Writing off NAEP as if it doesn’t matter fails to meet that standard.

The jousts and jabs underline the need for a robust, independent body with subpoena powers, to collect, analyze and publicly report on student achievement data and financial operations.

Teachers after each lesson ask themselves: was the lesson successful? how do I define success? how do I know the lesson was successful? how will these findings impact tomorrow’s lesson?

I want the Klein initiatives to be successful … I fear if the are not.

If Children First is a failure, what will follow? Calls for more and more charter schools and vouchers, calls for the ending of defined benefit teacher pension plans: the abandonment of support for unionized public schools.

We have to know what is working, and what is not working, and why.

* closing “failing” schools and replacing with small high schools

* Fair Student Funding

* School Support Organization Model

* Empowerment Support Organization Network Model

* School Inquiry Teams (Children First Teams)

* Leadership Academy

* Quality Reviews and School Progress Reports

* PEP and CECs

* Open Market Transfer and ATR

All of these initiatives must be assessed and evaluated by an “arms length” organization, and their findings peer reviewed.

The Department recently released a ranking of the fourteen School Support Organizations, and the Empowerment model finished second of the fourteen. Empowerment, with over five hundred schools is by far the largest support organization. Why is it doing so well? What are the lessons we can learn? Should we continue with the fourteen organizations? prune down to a lower number? move towards a system-wide Empowerment model?

Outside organizations can advocate policies, provide forums for the various “sides” to confront and support their positions. The Manhattan Institute is sponsoring a panel on April 23rd, chaired by Sol Stern re “Teacher Quality,” the panel: Randi Weingarten and Daniel Koretz, a renowned testing expert and two pay for performance supporters. Kudos to Sol and the Manhattan Institute for providing a public forum for a discussion of a key component of the Obama schools plan.

The Chancellor cannot be the initiator and the evaluator … whatever happens in Albany we must know what is working, what is not working, and why, and use this data to create  better schools for kids and families.


One response to “Diane, Joel and Aaron Joust: Who is “Right”? Why We Need a Robust Independent Peer Reviewed Assessment/Evaluation Organization.

  1. Pingback: Topics about New-york » Blog Archive » Diane, Joel and Aaron Joust: Who is “Right”? Why We Need a Robust Independent Peer Reviewed Assessment/Evaluation Organization.

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