Marc Korashan is a teacher, a teacher of teachers, a trade unionist and a frequent commenter on this blog.
It is hard to see, from a reading of the State’s power point, how an Independent Receiver is any different from the District Superintendent other than in the Receiver’s ability to require Collective Bargaining from the unions on changes to working conditions. The District Superintendent can request those negotiations and the unions can refuse, but they must comply with a request for negotiation from the Receiver. Other than the ability to compel negotiations the District Superintendent and the Receiver have the same tools available to them to try to improve a school. Of the fifteen metrics listed, six are reiterations of the failed approaches in NCLB:
iv student promotion, graduation and dropout rates
v student achievement and growth on state measures
vi progress in areas of under-performance
vii progress among subgroups
viii reduction in the achievement gaps
xiv using age appropriate assessment in grades pre-k to three
They are invitations to cheat, as they did in Houston, Atlanta and many places in New York City where high stakes are attached to highly flawed measures of student achievement.
Two of the metrics are beyond the authority or control of any administrator:
i. student attendance
x parent and family engagement
We can try to increase engagement and attendance but the real world will have its say and these are difficult issues in high poverty communities.
Four of the metrics are so vaguely worded as to be meaningless on their face:
ix development of college and career readiness including in elementary and middle schools
xi building a culture of academic success among students
xiii building a culture of academic success among teachers and staff
xv measures of student learning
This leaves two metrics where educators can have an immediate and positive impact in schools:
ii student discipline
iii student safety
Improving discipline and safety can be accomplished at the local level, without recourse to the district superintendent or an independent receiver, if administration and staff collaborate. The tools for doing both these things are well documented and known. It is merely a matter of having the will to apply them consistently and intelligently on a case-by-case basis. The Governor wants to be able to claim he did something on Education even though he has not really addressed the fundamental issues that impede progress for students. This is smoke and mirrors and political hocus-pocus, not sound educational policy.
Until politicians recognize that education happens in schools, as a direct result of the relationship that teachers can establish with students, and the provision of time and resources for teachers to plan, assess, and implement curricula that meet the needs of their individual students, then we will continue to waste time and money on meaningless power struggles like the ones that preceded this new iteration of old failed policies.
Schools will get better when, and only when, teachers are treated as the professionals they are and given real voice and the authority to serve their students.