Wal-Sanity: Walcott and Sternberg Remind Us of Abbott and Costello

A teacher asked, “If we change the name of our school to the Christine Quinn High School do you think Tweed will take us off the list?”

Last year I would have chuckled, now, who knows?

Under federal law states must identify low achieving schools,

Persistently Lowest-Achieving schools (PLAs) are eligible for federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding, New York is required to identify as persistently lowest-achieving the bottom five percent of Title I schools in Improvement, Corrective Action or Restructuring status

The state releases a list of “persistently lowest achieving” (PLA) school each year. (See list here).

The Department named thirty-three schools and selected an approved federal model which would allow all staff to remain, the school would be “supported” by an outside organization and, the key – the school would be eligible for School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds.

The State Commissioner determined that the feds required an in-place teacher evaluation plan, since no plan was in place by December 31 he froze the SIG funds.

After screams, rants, raves, demonstrations, and support from members of the Board of Regents seven schools were removed from the list.

The Department, without consultation, changed the model to a “replace the principal and half the teachers model,” sort of, and, oh yes, change the name of the school. After a number of false starts the Department submitted plans to the state, decisions in “early June.”

And, whether these plans would make the schools eligible for SIG funding.

The Department waffled; maybe half the teachers would not have to be replaced. (See Gotham Schools analysis here)

The Department kept referring to a section of the union contract, Article 18 D, the staffing of new schools, in which a committee made up of supervisors, teachers and parents select new staff.

Apparently the Department asked the union to begin the re-staffing process and the union responded, what new schools?

On the morning of the vote the Department removed two schools; Bushwick Community was supported by Regents Cashin and Tisch, SED Accountability guru Ira Schwartz, and, eventually Speaker of the Council Quinn. Grover Cleveland was supported by Cathy Nolan, who happens to be the chair of the Assembly Education Committee and a graduate of the school.

I kid you not.

I suspect that as soon as the Department begins the re-staffing process the union will go to court. The State has not approved any plan – how can the Department create a plan of its own?

It is also possible that the Commissioner will not support the city plan.

The insanity is that virtually all the principals and most of the teachers were chosen under the regency of the mayor. If the schools are failing, and I say if, who is responsible? What is the responsibility of the Network Leader? the Cluster Leader? the Superintendent? the Deputy Chancellor? the Chancellor? Why place the blame on the principal and the teachers?

Mike Winerip in the NY Times compares two schools, a few blocks apart with similar data – one received an “A” on the Progress Report and the other an “F.”

I’ve really tried to follow Chancellor Walcott, CEO Suransky and especially Deputy Chancellor Mark Sternberg.

Every few weeks the Department zigs or zags … explanations change, plans change, and change and change.

It reminds me of those two great education thinkers, Abbott and Costello and the classic, “Who’s On First?”


Abbot and Costello – Who’s on First
 ► 6:09► 6:09 Abbot and Costello – Who’s on First.

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