What Type of Chancellor Do We Need in New York City: An “Innovator” or a “Collaborator”?

On Thursday I helped facilitate an event, “How does the New ESSA Law Impact my School?” – about fifty principals and teacher union (UFT) staff listening to and interacting with two experts, one from the Department of Education and the other from the UFT: labor and management, principals and teachers, working together to comprehend a complex new law changing school assessment. I think I might even understand the difference between proficiency, growth, progress, measurements and goals.

Ironically the same day the NY Daily News published an op ed by former Bloomberg Department of Education staffer Andrew Kirtzman (“Needed: An Education Innovator to Follow Carmen Farina”) The innovators Kirtzman praises described themselves as “disrupters,” breaking apart a school system and building another based on their ideas. Kirtzman’s innovators/disrupters created turmoil. Over 2000 teachers in the ATR pool, Open Market transfers, aka, teacher free agency, Fair Student Funding, change after change, a chaotic era antagonized the work force. Teachers despised the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott, “innovations” that were actually an attempt to end tenure, weaken and/or destroy the union, an attempt that rallied teachers and created a vibrant opposition. Farina’s first job was to clean out the Augean Stables.

Obama/Duncan/King pumped out hundreds of millions of dollars: the Common Core, evaluating teachers by student test scores, in New York State four tests for prospective teachers, extending teacher probation, and, choice aka, charter schools. Once again, alienating the work force; teachers in classrooms across the nation and the state.

The most successful corporations, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Zappos, all build teams of employees, teams with wide latitude to create and collaborate.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs is Tony Hsieh, the president and CEO of Zappos, an online shoe and apparel site.  In a new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Hsieh argues that workplace culture is the key to highly effective employees that create a highly effective business enterprise. Spend a few minutes listening to Hsieh here.

 Workplace culture in New York City has dramatically changed, from the toxic culture of the previous administration to an increasingly collaborative culture. The 2014 teacher contract created PROSE schools,

Of all the breakthrough ideas in the 2014 contract, none has more potential to empower teachers and their school communities than the PROSE initiative. PROSE stands for Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence, and the opportunities for redesign at the heart of this program are predicated on the UFT’s core belief that the solutions for schools are to be found within school communities, in the expertise of those who practice our profession.

See the PROSE application and rubric for 2018 »

Over 100 schools are currently in the program, bending management/union rules, redesigns, school communities finding better ways to deliver services to students.

The change in culture also comes from Albany, Commissioner Elia and Regent Chancellor Rosa involved the education community across the state in major policy decisions. The creation of the state ESSA plan included scores of meetings, hundreds of educators from all levels participating, thousands of comments, months and months of discussions created a plan that moves from how many kids reach a proficient grade (3.0) on a state test to a system that combines proficiency, growth and progress. The topic I referenced above, the work groups included all the educational stakeholders.

The former administration imposed a teacher evaluation system based on Value-Added Measurements, student test scores, to assess teacher quality. After a long, arduous battle Governor Cuomo agreed to toll the system for four years, teachers are currently assessed by a system called “the matrix,” a combination of teacher observations and locally-agreed upon measurements of student learning (MOSL) and student learning objectives (SLO).

With the moratorium in its third year the commissioner has asked for feedback from staff across the state.

See the APPR survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/commissionersAPPRsurvey

BTW, fill it out and submit- join thousands of teachers across the state.

We’ve had enough of “innovative” leadership, leadership firmly convinced they possess the Holy Grail, leadership imposed so-called innovations, and moved on to their next job.

The Gates Foundation has a new director of K-12 education, Bob Hughes, the former leader of New Visions for Public Schools, an organization that created and works with small public high schools. (He was also one of the attorneys on the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity law suit team). I know, I know, we’ll all suspicious of the word Gates. I worked with Bob for a few years, I respect him. The Foundation is requesting proposals for networks of schools.

The networks we invest in will use a continuous improvement process to improve student outcomes by tackling problems that are common across the network. At the foundation, we believe connecting schools that are facing similar challenges will increase the likelihood of school leaders identifying the approach that is most likely to be effective in their school. We also believe that principals and teachers, through focused planning, collaboration, and data-sharing within networks, can raise achievement and increase the academic success of Black, Latino, and low-income students

I arrived early for a meeting with a principal and asked whether it was possible to push up the meeting, the school secretary, “No, he’s teaching.” I was surprised, “He’s covering a class of an absent teacher?” The secretary: “No, he teaches first period.” I was intrigued.

When we met I asked the principal why he was teaching a first period class.

“I take three classes into the gym; we do exercises, maybe some yoga, a few basketball skills. it allows me to get the temperature of the kids, it allows three teachers to meet and co-plan for the day.”

I asked if I could speak with one of the teachers, the principal, “Of course.”

The teacher: “We love it, we can concentrate on particular kids, particular skills, I’m really enjoying this year and I feel we’re making a difference.”

There are school leaders and teachers across the city collaborating to improve their schools, unfortunately the “ideas” are rarely shared, after all, what do teachers know (sadly too often the higher-ups attitude).

The Gates Networks, the UFT-Department of Education PROSE schools, the Performance-Based Assessment Consortium, all move schools and kids forward, all make teaching more rewarding.

We need a collaborative leader, a chancellor who can build on the trust that Farina created. We need a chancellor who understands the answers are in the schools and classrooms. Distributive leadership throughout the ranks strengthens ties, gives every voice a place within strong school cultures.

7 responses to “What Type of Chancellor Do We Need in New York City: An “Innovator” or a “Collaborator”?

  1. Of course collaboration is good, but I have seen no evidence that PROSE schools have improved more than other schools. Perhaps such evidence exists but it is publicly unavailable. One of the great “innovations” in these schools is increasing class size beyond the union contractual limits, which in my mind and that of many parents is a step backwards rather than forwards. Perhaps the UFT leadership should focus on reducing class size rather than increasing it, as their contractual class size limits are far too large and haven’t been reduced in 50 years. Beyond that, many teachers on the ground constantly report to me that they do not feel there is a collaborative atmosphere in their schools, any more than during the Bloomberg/Klein years, and some say that the environment has worsened and they feel even more under attack.


  2. I don’t know about type of chancellor, but I can tell you what kind of chancellor..See Bernard Griffin…Problem with Farina, was she never worked in a bad school. Lived a sheltered life in Park Slope. So my search would be focused on educators who have had success in low income high crime communities. The methods that they would employ city wide would impact in a positive way the under achieving schools, while nothing would change with the over performing schools. They would continue to over perform, but there would be huge changes upwardly for someone not afraid to do what must be done.


  3. from Anonymous:

    I believe in the power of teacher teams and a collaborative model – but generations of teachers have not had the mentoring or college preparation that provides guidance regarding curriculum and instructional planning and assessment; it’s hard to collaborate in the educational house of babble. Has the principal laid a foundation for effective collaboration by defining the content, skills and curriculum that the teachers will follow and upon which to forge ahead in their plans of delivery and assessment? Or are the teachers collaborating on what to teach, a formidable task, merging content and standards by grade level into a course of study that is also aligned to state and local testing. I’m raising these issues because I don’t want to take for granted the real challenges that supervisors, teachers and students encounter in their daily work. Romanticizing the collaborative stone will not camouflage the outcomes on a long term basis.

    My suggestion – schools should blend basic training which includes curriculum coverage and instructional methods with a structured protocol for collaborative teacher team-work to enhance the implementation of the curriculum, the assessment of student learning and the need for re-teaching to reach good student learning outcomes. I hope the new chancellor starts with that – and then you have an innovator and a collaborator all in one


  4. Jacqueline Foil (retired teacher and concerned citizen)

    I retired in 1991! Did some innovative teacher training through NYSUT and was a teacher of teachers. It seems to me there are no substantial changes since my period of being a classroom teacher. Lots of talk, but little if any substantial changes. There is much that could be done if all elements of the system had the will.


  5. Pingback: Peter Goodman: Does New York City Need an “Innovator” or a “Collaborator” to Lead Its Schools? | Diane Ravitch's blog

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  7. Pingback: Peter Goodman: Does New York City Need an “Innovator” or a “Collaborator” to Lead Its Schools? – Sarah Parker Blog

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