“Many officials in Joel Klein’s administration, including Klein himself, emphasize structural changes to improve the New York City schools. They favor policies such as closing down struggling schools, offering pay bonuses to educators whose students improve their performance on tests, and giving more power to principals to determine their own curricula and tests.
Suransky approaches improving education policy from the opposite direction. Suransky looks through the lens of instruction — that is, the relationships between teachers and students — rather than starting with incentives or organizational structures.” Quoting Suransky,
[U]ltimately the reason for assessment is to motivate what happens in the classroom. If it doesn’t actually lead to good practice in the classroom then it’s undermining practice in the classroom. And so this is an opportunity. This is a moment where there’s an opportunity to shift the direction of practice in the classroom and to push on the level of rigor and to actually figure out what is it that kids and teachers need in order to engage in that type of practice.
Can Suransky, the educator, and Black the manager, act in a congruent fashion? Will Suransky’s instructional concerns honor teachers?
Diane Senechal in a Gotham Schools comment asks core questions,
… caring about instruction can mean all sorts of things. Does Suransky believe teachers should follow a pedagogical model, such as Balanced Literacy? Or does he believe that they should plan lessons that suit the topic at hand? Does he believe in a set of “effective” teaching practices, or does he believe that those practices vary according to subject, grade, situation, and even teacher? Does he believe that national assessments should precede and drive curriculum, or does he believe that curricula should come first? …. Does he believe that teachers’ names and scores should be released to the press, or does he view such action as damaging and distracting? Does he believe that data should “drive” instruction, or that teachers should use their best judgment when interpreting data? Of course there are in-between positions as well; the point is that two educators may believe in improving instruction but see this in very different ways.
Rudy Crew (1995-1999) our last educator chancellor employed as Deputy Chancellor for Operations, Harry Spence, who was a Harvard education Boston Brahman and a highly regarded management expert. The early gains in standardized tests scores claimed by Joel Klein were the result of work by the Crew-Spence team.
Suransky’s duties read very much like those of chancellor “A job description prepared by the city said he would have ‘the broadest scope for the exercise of independent initiative and judgment’ and listed 25 duties, including many that would normally fall to the head of a school system. (read here)
Aaron Pallas in a Hechinger Report post muses about end product of distributing expertise among a number of individuals,
Once we acknowledge the notion that expertise is distributed among individuals in a setting, why would we rely on credentials that emphasize individual accomplishment? Why would we seek to isolate the contributions of individual teachers to students’ learning when teaching is an activity distributed among the educators in a particular school? Why would we even assess students’ learning via methods that preclude students from using tools in concert with other students? If, as Mayor Bloomberg has asserted, Cathie Black’s appointment is justified because she’ll be learning in concert with others, why don’t schools assess students’ preparedness to do just this? In the spirit of the season, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
The “chicken or the egg,” aka the manager or educator, presupposes that one will be more effective than the other. The history of large city superintendents, be it manager or educator, over the past decade has been dismal, with one possible exception (Menino-Payzant in Boston). Whether mayoral control or school board selected they come and go, usually leaving for a “better” job or antagonizing the hiring authority, parents, teachers and the public.
“Black or an educator-type” or “Black and an educator,” in a climate of cataclysmic budget cuts and public cynicism, the “proof” will be in the remainder of the school year.
If Mayor Bloomberg has aspirations for 2013 and beyond the Black-Suransky team may be his surrogate, their success/failure will be his …