This has been an incredibly turbulent week in the world of education.
On Monday the Board of Regents held a totally online meeting (Watch video here) and addressed the myriad remote learning issues facing education in the state.
On Tuesday the governor mused about education, “I’m ready. I’m ready for change,” and “let’s start talking about really revolutionizing education,”
“When does change come to a society? Because we all talk about change and advancement, but really we like control, and we like the status quo and it’s hard to change the status quo,” he said. “But you get moments in history where people say, ‘Okay, I’m ready. I’m ready for change. I get it.’ I think this is one of those moments. And I think education, as well as other topics, is a topic where people will say, ‘Look, I’ve been reflecting, I’ve been thinking, I learned a lot.’ We all learned a lot about how vulnerable we are and how much we have to do, and let’s start talking about really revolutionizing education. And it’s about time.
What does changing the status quo mean?
The governor has had at times contentious, at times collaborative relationship with educators in the state.
Eight years ago the governor created an education reform commission,
“The Commission will examine the current structure of the state’s education system including teacher recruitment and performance, student achievement, education funding and costs, parent and family engagement, problems facing high-need districts, and the best use of technology in the classroom. The Commission will also analyze the organization of school districts to ensure they are structured to meet the needs of New York’s students while also respecting the taxpayer.”
“ The future of our state depends directly on how well we teach our kids today and I look forward to working together with the Commission to make our public schools the best in the nation.”
“New York State spends more money per student than any other state in the nation, but ranks 38th in high school graduation rates. 73 percent of New York’s students graduate from high school and 37 percent are college ready. To address these major shortcomings in the state’s education system, Governor Cuomo called for the creation of the New NY Education Reform Commission in his 2012 State of the State address.”
The governor had bemoaned the cost of education and the lack of “results,” as he defined results.
The final report was widely praised – Read summary of the report here.
A few years later the governor became enamored with evaluating teachers and principals by student scores on standardized tests, the battle ensued for a few years, the state teachers union did not endorse the governor in his re-election campaign, the governor increased service time to achieve tenure from three to four years and moved much closer to charter schools.
Every year one of the key issues in the lead up to the April 1 budget was school aid, the governor insisted on a 2% property tax cap, which he recently made permanent.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) law suit; that began in the 90s, ever so slowly worked it way through state courts. In 2006 the court sustained the litigants and state budgets began to repay the poorest districts in the state. As the Great Recession evolved the governor postponed repaying the CFE funds and recently simply reneged on repaying any of the funds. The litigants are back in court seeking to force the governor to fully implement the CFE decision.
Hanging over us all are staggering funding cuts to education, the amount of the cuts are in the hands of the governor. The governor just extended the PAUSE until at least June 7th and set specific requirements for reopening that must be met in the part of the state that is considering re-opening. Until revenue begins to flow into state coffers the budget will continue to be negatively impacted.
What does re-imagine mean?
Teachers re-imagine education every day, we are constantly seeking how to engage our students, how to awaken and reawaken the imagination in every one of us. Imagination is stifled by the overbearing pressures of testing, of edicts from the aeries of power sitting in some distant office.
How do we ignite the spark, in our students? In ourselves?
We build a toolkit; we add to our “bag of tricks,” we seek the proper tool to turn on the students.
I smiled when I read the word “re-imagine.”
Maxine Greene an art educator and a philosopher, has had a profound impact on our practice; she sees awakening imagination at the core of teaching.
Take a few minutes and listen to Greene give advice to new teachers here, it’s advice to all of us.
Re-imagining education does not mean moving to technology platforms; does not mean this or that piece of software. Yes, technology can be a vital instrument in our toolkit, and, yes, how to integrate the technology tools into our practice is a constant challenge.
Online learning has been an attractive option for colleges across the nation,
“Digital learning can help institutions reduce costs … through three primary mechanisms: raising student-to-instructor ratios, drawing on a broader network of adjunct faculty, and avoiding additional operations costs.”
Predominantly digital learning schools are not a replacement for traditional brick and mortar schools; for many students they’re the equivalent of transfer high schools, second chance, or last chance schools, and, sort of transfer schools at the college level.
Jim Malatras, who leads the Reimagine Advisory Commission, is the president of SUNY Empire, a predominantly online college.
SUNY Empire attracts older students and the combination of online and in-person classes fits into the schedule of adults who can’t give up working to attend college; unfortunately, the school struggles to retain students.
You have to make it past freshman year in order to graduate. With only 52.0% of students staying on to become sophomores, SUNY Empire State College has among the worst freshman retention rates in the country.
Nationwide, the average first year to second year retention rate is 68.0%. When looking at just colleges and universities in New York, the average is 73.0%.
Out in the remote learning/education technology or whatever you want to call it world there is a long list of vendors hawking their products without any evidence that the results are superior to education in school buildings.
Is the governor considering creating a plan to save dollars on education in New York State through technology? Hopefully not.
The governor explained, “The Council will work in collaboration with other experts and stakeholders including the state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to answer key questions about what education should look in the future using new technologies and to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal.”
I not sure what this means.
Gates foundation said in a statement, “The foundation is specifically supporting this effort by recommending education experts who can help advice and inform this work across a range of topics. We believe that teachers have an important perspective that needs to be heard and should be represented on this panel. The foundation is also contributing our own insights from years of working with partners in New York State and across the country. One of those insights is how technology can enhance teaching and be a tool for teachers as they apply their craft.”
See Advisory Council members here, and notice the absence of New York City educators, troubling ….
Where do we stand?
I don’t know.
Teachers are not troglodytes; we realize the impact of change. I ask friends, only half jokingly, “Have they stapled the chip into your earlobe yet?”
In our current remote teaching environment I watched a tech savvy teacher “instruct” other teachers on the integration of technology tools into their arsenal, their toolkit.
We learn best from “trusted” colleagues, we learn best in teams of colleagues, if this effort turns out to be “orders” from the generals it will be a waste of time.
It has not gotten off to a good start.
Teachers are rightfully suspicious, as well as parents, it’s not too late to right the ship.
The Cuomo decision, to ask Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google to lead the Re-Opening task force might be an incredibly impactful decision; maybe Schmidt will recommend adopting the Google leadership style
Researchers studied … companies … and concluded that performance improved only when these companies implemented people-strategies that empowered employees.
But let’s unpack what exactly “empowered” means in this sense.
It actually increases autonomy, provides more learning and growth opportunities, and allows teams to self-organize and make their own decisions. This fosters a leader-leader culture, rather than a follower-leader culture. It’s empowering!
Every crisis is an opportunity, depends how do define opportunity.
For teachers, sticking with your union is crucial, for parents hanging together. Let end with an old union song, sung by the iconic Paul Robeson.
Paul Robeson, “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill”