Every election cycle the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School University sponsors a series of panels: the professionals that led the campaigns for all the candidates in the city-wide races lay out their strategies and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why.
The bottom line: a single message and a single issue win campaigns. For de Blasio, the “tale of two cities” and the universal pre-kindergarten won the day.
The rollout of the Common Core and the Principal/Teacher Evaluation plans were political campaigns.
Unfortunately the Commissioner chose the wrong path. Remember that day when your mother pushed that tablespoon filled with a foul-smelling liquid up to your lips? “Drink it down, it’s good for you.”
The Common Core, the Principal/Teacher Evaluation Plan, the InBloom data mining plan, all pushed down the throats of parents, teachers, principals and superintendents.
Maybe, just maybe, the Commissioner, like your mother, five or so years down the road will be able to say, “I told you so … always listen to your mother,” or, after one confrontation too many, you moved out of the house.
Back in 2010 I looked at the Social Studies Standards, interesting, a few of the 9/10th grade standards:
• Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
• Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
The problem: the standards were not guidance to teachers – they became the Holy Grail; none of us realized that the Core had been chiseled on stone tablets and passed down to us from Moses.
What was the message?
The “tale of two cities” or gulp down the foul-smelling medicine?
The August release of the state test scores lit a fire under parents throughout the state. The October Poughkeepsie meeting (watch 10-minute U-Tube here) and the response of the Commissioner only added gasoline to the roaring fire,
State Education Commissioner John King said the decision to abruptly “suspend” four public forums on the newly implemented Common Core standards was made because they had been “co-opted by special interests.” … King faced a barrage of sometimes loud and angry criticism from those who spoke at the first meeting, and the remaining four dates were canceled Friday.
In a statement, King said the meeting was disrupted by “special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”
The forums resumed with the same results – hundreds of angry parents raging against the Commissioner the Common Core, testing and the policies emanating out of Albany.
Next week the road show comes to the Big Apple, Tuesday in Brooklyn at Medgar Evers College and Wednesday at a small elementary school in Manhattan (Spruce Street School). Chancellor Merryl Tisch will be in the Bronx also on Tuesday.
I expect little to change.
Speaker after speak will criticize the tests, the New York City support for the Common Core, the lack of appropriate books and materials, the lack of a coherent curriculum, lock step lessons, school closing, etc.
As he announced in Rochester, the Commissioner will lay a list of small proposed changes, King said changes in testing options for special needs students, in Spanish language assessments and the phasing out of dual math exams for accelerated students, are some changes being considered.
Too little too late for the critics around the state.
2014 is an election year. The Assembly, the Senate and the State-wide offices are all on the ballot. The 213 members of the legislature and the governor are not tone deaf. The anger will displace- from the commissioner to the elected officials, and, perhaps, to the governor.
The January State of the State message sets forth the governor’s agenda for the legislative session. The governor can challenge parents and support the agenda of the commissioner, ignore the issue, or, express his displeasure.
James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations (2005) argues, “diverse collections of independently deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts” The hundreds upon hundreds of parents and teachers may make more sense than the experts.
Whether or not the commissioner and the experts or the “diverse collection of independently deciding individuals” are correct, the rollout of the polices was doomed from the start.
There was no clear and coherent message, the message and the implementation were muddled and the continuing approach, “trust us,” only led to increasing distrust.
How do you rescue the policies?
Will a new chancellor in New York City take the side of parents and teachers, or, support the commissioner’s reform agenda?
Will state legislators introduce both introduce legislation and coalesce across parties?
Will the governor exercise the power of the bully pulpit and “suggest” a change of course?
Will the commissioner back away from his hard charging style?
Unfortunately the current skirmishes have eaten up all the air. English language learners have appalling graduation rates as well as scores on state exams. How is the Commissioner responding? Afro-American males continue to stumble, hundreds of small rural districts are on the verge of bankruptcy, and the two percent property tax cap is drying up resources, all enormous problems that the Commissioner does not appear to be adequately addressing.
Welcome to the Big Apple Commissioner…