A School System Adrift: New York City Schools Search for Direction as the Political Landscape Evolves

The theory of action that describes the Board and the successor Department of Education are known as Newton’s First Laws of Motion … sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction.

If you ask upper management in the Department why they’re following a particular policy the standard answer is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” Newton’s First Law of Motion –the law of inertia.

Meisha Porter begins her tenure on March 15th, the third chancellor to lead the Department of Education during de Blasio’s seven plus years in office.

Can she change the direction of the leviathan?

Education policy has become inexorably intertwined with mayoral politics.

On June 22nd voters will select the Democratic Party candidates for Mayor along with the Comptroller, 37 of the 51 members of the City Council and three out of five Borough Presidents. For the following six months de Blasio will be a “lame duck” mayor and the acting chancellor will be dancing between the outgoing mayor and the incoming mayor; not exactly an ideal situation.

The NYS Education Department used to identify the lowest achieving schools as Schools Under Registration Review SURR), a team spent four days in an identified school interviewing everyone, observing teachers and writing a “findings-recommendations” report.  I was the union guy on the teams.

At one of my visits we arrived at the school and the school secretary apologized, there was an emergency, the principal would be late.  The principal arrived,  frazzled, “Excuse me, I had to cover classes, three vacancies and four teachers are absent.”

The meeting began and the team leader asked, “What qualities are you looking for in a new teacher?”  A reasonable question; considering the vacancies. The principal blurted, “They come every day and blood doesn’t run out from under the door.”

Sometimes I think a description of education policy today.

A year into the pandemic a majority of kids in NYC have chosen to attend remotely, schools are opening and closing every day due to COVID positive tests and testing protocols and the 485 high schools are scheduled to “open” on March 22nd. we can expect the continuing opening and closing of schools.

The new chancellor has a long, long list of questions on her “to-do” list.

Will the city move forward with school integration plans?  See NYU Metro Center blog post here.

Due to COVID Gifted and Talent tests are cancelled for this year, replaced by teacher recommendations and perhaps a lottery. Will the tests return next year?

Will the Department implement the Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education Curriculum? See here and CRSE Scorecard here.

How is the Department assessing “learning loss?” Will every kid take a test?

Can the Department actually run expanded in-person summer schools? 

What will September look like? Will there be a remote option? Simply return to a September, 2019 opening?

Can the “new” chancellor address these and the myriad other issues? Who is the “real” Meisha Porter? The one described in the NY Post (See here and here) or the New York Times here?

If Rick Patino can make it back to March Madness maybe Rudy Crew and Kathleen Cashin are waiting in the wings?  A Moses-Jesus-Buddha-Mohammad like figure with time on their hands?

The one constant: 1.1 million kids and their teachers fighting every day to provide the best education and the best outcomes possible under trying, to be polite, circumstances.

One response to “A School System Adrift: New York City Schools Search for Direction as the Political Landscape Evolves

  1. More vocal than our local.



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