Will NYC Create a Thoughtful and Effective Plan for the Billions of Education Dollars or Waste on Mindless Testing and Remediation?

I was biking up Third Avenue in May, no cars as far as I could see, New York City was a ghost town. The pandemic was rampant, subways and buses empty, the cities revenue stream had ended …. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.

Would the city go bankrupt?  (Read here)

Were we facing another 1975?  Widespread teacher layoffs? (Read here)

Candidate Biden becomes President Biden, the assault on the Congress fails and the Biden Rescue Plan becomes law.

Half of New York City is vaccinated and the number of vaccinated New Yorkers continues to grow.

The New York State legislature passes a budget that fully funds education, the fight over Foundation Aid is over.

Mayor de Blasio releases his Executive Budget, which he calls his Recovery Budget – worthwhile watching here.  The City Council has to approve the budget, the Council and the Mayor will negotiate and likely approve by mid-June.

The NYS Education Department has to submit a plan specifying how the Rescue Plan dollars will be utilized in the state. The Plan is due June 7th, see the Fact Sheet and the application template here and 90% of the Rescue funds must be released to school districts

 “A State must subgrant not less than 90 percent of its total ARP ESSER allocation to local educational agencies (LEAs) (including charter schools that are LEAs) in the State to help meet a wide range of needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including reopening schools safely, sustaining their safe operation, and addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic. The State must allocate these funds to LEAs on the basis of their respective shares of funds received under Title I

Within a few months, from 7,000 teacher layoffs to over $2B additional dollars for New York City schools.

What will the City do with this avalanche of funds?

Do you begin with addressing “learning loss,” or, maybe more accurately called “COVID Slide?” The Rescue Plan dollars are only for three years, how do you use the dollars to achieve the greatest impact? 

There are no shortages of ideas.

The United Federation of Teachers suggests a Five Point Plan (Read details here).

  • Mental health/academic intervention teams
  • Smaller classes
  • Extended summer learning programs
  • Targeted help for current high school students
  • UFT training program for teachers

The Alliance for Quality Education recommends,

* Class size reduction

* Teacher and principal quality initiatives

* Time on task

* Expansion of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs to full day, restructuring of high schools and middle schools

* Programs for English language learners, and,

* Experimental programs supported by research

Read AQE program in detail here.

Leonie Haimson at Class Size Matters argues cogently for a major reduction in class size (Read here) and City Council resolution proposes $250M in the proposed budget specifically for class size reductions (Read here)

The Learning Policy Institute, also in a detailed report, lists ten priority areas,

  1. Close the digital divide
  2. Strengthen distance and blended learning
  3. Assess what students need
  4. Ensure supports for social and emotional learning
  5. Redesign schools for stronger relationships
  6. Emphasize authentic, culturally responsive learning
  7. Provide expanded learning time
  8. Establish community schools and wraparound supports
  9. Prepare educators for reinventing school
  10. Leverage more adequate and equitable school funding

A thoughtful report, “How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond”? (May, 2020) relies on research from across the education spectrum.

I can go on and on, scores of organizations are making recommendations; the question: What works? Do we have evidence on effective programs?

The Mayor’s press conference mentioned a few programs and more details promised in a few weeks,

That infusion of cash, to be spent next school year, would cover tutoring, “universal academic assessments” to gauge children’s skills, and extra planning time for teachers

Former Chancellor Carranza, in the fall, laid out a program based on testing and targeted remediation: is the Department continuing the delayed Carranza programs? I hope not.

 A spokesperson for the education department added that schools would choose which assessments to use and that high-needs students will receive “targeted services.”

A guiding principle must be “ownership of practice,” teachers and school leaders must be at the heart of any program. For decades the education viziers in their castles issued ukases to the masses, as the “idea” trickled down through the endless bureaucracies it was transformed into drudgery, teaching became a job on an assembly line.

A highly effective practice is tutoring,

“…tutoring is one of the most powerful interventions of all. … “tutoring” refers to one-to-one or small-group instruction. Tutoring may involve one teacher or one teaching assistant working with one student, or one teacher or teaching assistant working with a very small group of students, usually two to four at a time.”

As one of us, David Steiner, recently affirmed, [remediation is] deeply demoralizing to students—just doesn’t work. Well intentioned teachers try to “meet students where they are,” but in trying to teach them all that they missed, are unable to bring them anywhere close to grade level work. Tutors, by contrast, can focus on the absolutely critical skills and knowledge that gives students accelerated access to grade-level material. This concentrated effort will be compounded where school districts have adopted high-quality instructional material. Such curricula engage students with rigorous materials that are on, or sometimes even slightly above, the level of traditional grade-level content

Allow schools to figure out the details, every school is different; engage the staff in creating their own school-specific tutoring model.

Remediation doesn’t work, has never worked, and we keep on repeating remediation models, the definition of doing something over and over again that doesn’t work is insanity.

David Steiner recommends,

we accelerate rather than remediate. Teachers do not water down curricula for our struggling students. Instead, we focus on expediting their growth and filling in any gaps in knowledge or skills, all while teaching them grade-appropriate content on a daily basis.

Don’t “water down,” use “grade appropriate content,” the concept of “meeting students were they’re at” is doomed, they just fall further and further behind, and, yes, a rich curriculum.

The challenge is sustainable change, not spackling, not simply filling in the cracks, and, at the core is thinning the vast bureaucracy and empowering teams at the local level. Give voice to teachers and school leaders.

At I hopeful?   

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens sing “We are the 99” at an October, 2011 Occupy Wall Street Rally – Can you use it in class?

2 responses to “Will NYC Create a Thoughtful and Effective Plan for the Billions of Education Dollars or Waste on Mindless Testing and Remediation?

  1. Once again Peter is on top of his game. Can we afford to misuse this action by Joe Biden. Of course not, hopefully, NYC and other Boards of ED across NY will spend the time and energy, involve parents, teachers and all school staff to help develop the appropriate programs to best utilize this windfall presented by Pres. Biden.

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  2. Pingback: September 21 School Opening and Unanswered Questions: Requiring Vaccinations, Remote Instruction, Teacher Accommodations, Summer School and “Catching Up” | Ed In The Apple

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