Christmas Past and Christmas Future: Reflecting on 2018 and Anticipating Education Policies in 2019

My phone alarm chimes and I reach for the TV remote tuned to MSNBC: what catastrophe happened over night? Are we at war with someone or some nation? Another outrageous tweet from 45? An environmental disaster? It’s been a disturbing year, and, I’m angry, angry all the time, angry at my fellow Americans, angry at dems who just couldn’t vote for Hillary. I know I have to get over it; every disastrous policy reignites my anger.

The current issue of The Atlantic has an excellent article delving into our anger, “The Roots of American Rage: The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our political and personal lives-and what we can do about it,” give a read.

On the last day of 2018 I reflect on the year in education and muse about the New Year.

This was not a good year for the education reform crowd, Robert Pondiscio at the conservative Fordham Institute writes,

 * If shares in the education reform movement could be purchased in the stock market, neutral analysts would grade them “underperform” and probably “sell.” 

 *  The “historic” rate of high school graduation is frothy at bestfraudulent at worst. It is not possible to look at the big indicators of K–12 performance over the last few decades—NAEP, PISA, SAT, and ACT scores—and claim that ed reform at large has been a success. The payoff is simply not there.

 *…we have mostly overplayed our hand, overstated our expertise, and outspent our moral authority by a considerable margin as we morphed from idealism to policymaking. Education reform’s policy prerogatives have transformed schooling in ways that parents don’t much like—test-based accountability, in particular, …. Disruption was precisely the point, of course, but there’s always a trade-off, an implied cost-benefit bargain. If you want the public’s permission to fundamentally alter the relationship between Americans and their schools, there has to be a clear, compelling, and demonstrable upside in time for people to see it. If the reform policy playbook was going to drive transformational, system-wide gains in American education, we’d have seen it by now.

 While reform may have exhausted its run the attack on unions accelerated.

 The attack on teacher unions: Janus succeeded after years of planning; however, it has failed to erode the strength of union, in fact, it appears to have strengthened the power of unions as evidenced by state-wide strikes. Conservatives, like Dale Chu, also at the Fordham Institute, call for “collective bargaining reform ;” basically eviscerating the ability of unions to bargain on a level playing field. What Chu fails to acknowledge is management has to agree with any agreement, and, management works for elected school boards or mayors. Democracy can be tough to swallow.

In spite of DeVos, in spite of attack after attack on teachers and their union the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter; although an economic downturn, a recession, could derail education funding.

On the state level a frustrating year, lots of sound and fury, without much to show for it. The Board of Regents continued endless meetings over constructing an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, a successor to No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  I sat through many, many hours of meetings, some led by Linda Darling Hammond and Scott Marion, I was waiting for the final exam! and promise not to publish pictures of napping Board of Regents members (only kidding).

Sadly, kids still take Common Core-lite exams and the exams are used to shame and punish. While an increasing number of Regents members are calling for alternatives to testing pilots the commissioner has shown no interest.

On positive side,

The My Brothers Keeper  (MBK) initiative has been well-funded by the legislature, and, is showing positive outcomes.

Resistance to charter schools grew among the Regents as well as a general assertiveness in policy-making;  a growing  “push-pull” between the commissioner and the Board.

In New York City an early collective bargaining agreement and paid maternity and child care leaves are major achievements; over 70,000 kids in Universal Pre-Kindergarten and kids in 3 for All, pre-k for three years olds in the poorest districts in the city.

Next year, 2019, is a hopeful year: a Blue Wave across the nation; however, will the new democrats replicate the policies of Obama/Duncan or Diane Ravitch and the Network for Public Education?

At the state level the wave was a tsunami, the democrats will hold a 40 to 23 seat edge in the Senate overturning many, many years of Republican control.

Everyone is expecting, hoping for, full funding for education, including full payment of the CFE lawsuit in New York City and an equalizing up of school funding across the state.

Unquestioningly, there will be bills to increase transparency in charter schools, and perhaps a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools.

The much reviled moratorium on the use of test scores to assess teacher performance may be made permanent and a return of teacher assessment to local school districts.

On the local level, New York City, the not so new chancellor has become virtually indivisible, occasionally tweeting; however, the only “innovations” are sections of the new teacher contract that begins in February, and, increasingly questions about mayoral control: is it “too political,”? how much independence should a school district leader have? Mayoral Control is up for renewal by the state legislature.

School integration still dominates the education news, although the kids impacted are few. The Department reports 14.7% of white kids in the city, and, without busing, which is not on the table, school integration appears limited to a few school districts. Whether the city or the state legislature is anxious to take on the question of the admission test to specialized high schools, the largest headlines, is questionable; and, the Chancellor’s Advisory Task Force Report on Equity and Diversity, due in December is delayed without a release date.

I guess you can say I’m “cautiously optimistic.”

“Politics” has a bad reputation, and, in too many instances a deserved bad reputation; however, turning your back on politics is surrender. Politics is not only coming out on Election Day, politics is immersing yourself in the process, every day, in every election cycle, in every election. Every time teachers with parent allies support a candidate you are costing the opponent money, and the audience includes every other elected. The UFT is holding interviews among the candidates for Public Advocate, open interviews; a few hundred union members will be attending the three interview sessions. Some say: who cares? The Public Advocate probably shouldn’t even exist: every election counts. It counts because it shows the power and influence of teacher unions, it’s an example to all other electeds and candidates..

Take a listen to Rhiannon Giddens sing “We are the 99” at an Occupy Wall Street rally.


2 responses to “Christmas Past and Christmas Future: Reflecting on 2018 and Anticipating Education Policies in 2019

  1. Franklin Schargel

    Peter; Another well done piece. Have a happy, HEALTHY and joyous New Year.


  2. Unless Corporations assist funding Education as when I (we) was Funded in the 1970’s, with Paid Work Programs with Vocational Edication for 15ys-17ys of age. I see litle hope. Politicians are failing the Education American System especially NYC! US Was No1 Education in the World!


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