For those of us of a certain age we remember a monolith called the “high school division” and those monumental personalities: high school superintendents.
Over decades structures were created that guided practice in the scores of large high schools and small alternative high schools that were scattered around the city. In any year over a hundred “high school memoranda” were promulgated setting forth or clarifying policy. For example, for a number of years the “division” required that 9th grade English and Math classes be capped at no more than 25 students, an acknowledgement of the vital importance of student success in the 9th grade.
In the 1960s two schools opened that impacted the entire school system, John Dewey High School and City As School. Both schools had strong support from the teachers union.
Dewey had an extended school day for students to work with teachers in small groups, perhaps to assist in homework, tutoring, guidance or some special project. Embedded in the Dewey system was the concept of independent study … the DISC (Dewey Independent Study Curriculum). The school year was divided into five segments, called cycles, grading was simplified to “mastery,” “mastery with distinction,” etc., the programming was flexible, blocs of time varying from day to day.
City As School (CAS) had both “seat time” courses and twelve week cycles during which the student “interned” at a work site, supervised by a teacher, perhaps at a local newspaper, a restaurant, a magazine, an engineering firm, etc., and the student reduced his/her experiences to a “paper.”
Both schools were highly collaborative sites, teachers and school leaders were totally involved in the creation and operation of their schools.. Fred Koury, a designer of Dewey went on to design and lead City As School, and, he was a UFT member and member of the union Executive Board. The current “bright line” between teacher and supervisor was blurred. It was an era when one spends a decade or more as a classroom teacher, some years as an assistant principal before leading a school. Many principals had served as UFT Chapter leaders.
Dewey and CAS were incubators, sites at which staffs created new approaches to a changing student body. Parents chose schools, and both sites attracted students who wanted a different type of education, an education geared to the changing mores and values of the turbulent sixties.
The high school division, superintendents, the teacher union, elected school teacher leaders, and teachers had a mature relationship. They could agree, disagree, collaborate and engage, a relationship that has disintegrated and created a school system with a “line in the sand” dividing management and labor, dividing principals and teachers; the current school system in which tens of thousands of teachers “rated” the chancellor with a failing grade of “F” in June, 2008.
We have moved, slowly but inexorably, from a school system that served many, not all, in which the “professionals” sometime argued, sometime collaborated, a school system in which both principals and teachers took pride.
Our current system is characterized by education bureaucracy and union leadership lobbing missiles back and forth while teachers and principals struggle to survive, an example: Chancellor Klein pointed to the key issue in schools,
The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who introduced the findings at the National Press Club in Washington, said the study vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was not poverty or family circumstances, but sub par teachers and principals.
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The Board of Regents is the oldest school governing body in the nation dating back to 1784. The Regents select the NYS Commissioner of Education and set policy for New York State schools, including high school graduation requirements. The 2008 entering 9th grade is the first class to have to meet the full implementation of the Regents diploma, 22 Carnegie units (44 credits in NYC), a specific sequence of courses and pass Regents exams in five subject areas with grades of 65. The reg requires 54 hours of “seat time” for each credit earned in NYC.
The regs make no mention of credit recovery.
Credit recovery, which began decades ago as an occasionally utilized alternate route to graduation, created at schools in a collaborative spirit and closely monitored by “central” has become endemic and unregulated. A new diploma, a de facto but not de jure diploma, the credit recovery diploma. There are no SED regulations and no DOE regulations or guidelines. Thousands of students each year receive credit by way of credit recovery. Philissa Cramer, in Gotham Schools post paints a stark picture of the path to graduation in one NYC school.
A year after State Ed announced a review of credit recovery practice in NYC the SED finally promulgated a draft proposal, a proposal that is totally inadequate.
State credit recovery regs must require that all school programs,
* Either require approval by the School Leadership Team or a school committee including the UFT Chapter Leader, the Guidance Counselor responsible for the student and a teacher (not teaching the student) in the appropriate subject area,
* Students must have at least 24 hours of seat time (present for 50% of the scheduled class sessions) in the “failed” course to be eligible for credit recovery.
* Approval by the Superintendent.
* Reports each term recounting a) the student enrolled in credit recovery and b) their results, and, c) schools must retain student projects until a year after their cohort has graduated,
* Students may not earn more than three (3) credit recovery credits.
Credit recovery is an option for some students in some situations, it must not become an acceptable alternative to regular classroom attendance.
Threatening schools with closure and principals with dismissal, using credit accumulation as a major metric, and, “winking” at the way credits are counted, is disgraceful and immoral. How many kids proudly display their diploma, and move into college ill-prepared, and fail.
State Ed must set forth clear and transparent regulations to assure that a diploma has meaning and value.