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“Punting:” Will Albany Extend Mayoral Control Without Addressing Charter Schools or Accountability? Or Will the Governor “Impose?”

“Punting” in politics is avoiding making a difficult decision, and, extending mayoral control or returning to a central board are difficult and politically dangerous decisions. A return to the former borough president selected central board and elected community boards could lead to  a return to “politics as usual,” a central board more interested in political deal-making and patronage than the education of children, or, the return could lead to community engagement and community consensus-building and widely acceptable decisions.

In an earlier blog I wrote: “If you toss a rock into a pool of feces you never can predict who gets splashed.”  A governor up for election in 2018 with presidential ambitions, Republicans holding on to the Senate by one seat and ambitious Democrats angry over the spread of charter schools and fearful of losing support from the anti-charter school folks is a combustible combination.

Tuesday morning the governor announced he was calling the legislature back to Albany, a special session convening today (Wednesday).

Rumor: extend mayoral control by a year and approve the small town tax extenders; however, “its never over until its over.”

Years ago I was an organizer working on setting up a strike, picket lines, signs, etc., the husband of the women I was working with was on the negotiating team. The strike was set for the next day, the woman’s husband showed up, “We’re been going round the clock, almost wrapped up, I have to catch a few hours sleep.”  The “almost wrapped up” negotiation turned into a strike lasted lasted for two weeks.

The larger question: should schools be lead by an elected school board or a mayor  is highly controversial, and, part of over 100 years of schools reforms.

The first reform era was the late nineteenth century passing of the Pendleton Act (1883), the creation of a civil service system, the reaction to the “spoils system. In 1881 President Garfield was shot and killed by Charles Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker.

 The Pendleton Act provided that Federal Government jobs be awarded on the basis of merit and that Government employees be selected through competitive exams. The act also made it unlawful to fire or demote for political reasons employees who were covered by the law. The law further forbids requiring employees to give political service or contributions. The Civil Service Commission was established to enforce this act.

Civil service reform sweep across the states and the 1898 Great Consolidation, the merging of the boroughs into New York City, the statutes also created a single Board of Education and a Board of Examiners that promulgated competitive examinations for jobs within the Board of Education as well as a management structure.

Read Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars: A History of the New York City Public Schools (1974) for a seminal account of education in New York City.

The school board was an appointed position, a policy board that appointed a superintendent who was the leader of the school system. The board members were selected from the elites, met monthly and were virtually anonymous.

The 1960s was a turbulent decade. A new teacher union flexing muscles, a burgeoning school population, school integration efforts and a strong anti-busing reaction coupled with the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panthers, racial-based riots in Detroit, Newark and Los Angeles, the anti-war movement and a school board under constant assault.

Read David Rogers, 110 Livingston Street: Politics and Bureaucracy in New York City Schools (1968), an in-depth analysis by a highly respected sociologist.

New York City Mayor John Lindsay, a progressive Republican feared the riots that were engulfing the nation would spread to New York. One “solution:” empower poor communities of color, and one path to empowerment was to hand over the schools to the community. The 40-day 1968 teacher strike was over the question of community control of  schools; the strike ended, Lindsay employed the Ford Foundation to draft a plan and after months of Albany wrangling school decentralization was born.

I think the best work is Tamar Jacoby, Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration (2004),  “New York’s experiences with race show the damage that can be done when powerful white liberals, in the name of racial justice, refuse to condemn, and desperately continue to support, black activists whose message is filled with hate, whose actions are irresponsible and whose financial practices are often corrupt.”

 For over twenty-five years the New York City school system was governed by a salaried, staffed, highly political central board and 32-elected school boards. Central Board members, selected by the borough presidents and the mayor earned $37,000 a year, a full-time staffer and a city vehicle. Mayors, Lindsay, Beame, Koch and Giuliani were aloof, they claimed credit for perceived positives and blamed boards and chancellors for perceived negatives. The school system was chronically under funded, after all, the finger of accountability did not point to the mayor. Chancellors came and went, their most important skill set was navigating the shark infested waters of city hall politics. The elected school boards were “captured” by the local electeds and the boards served as patronage mills. Principal and assistant principal jobs blatantly sold or traded for favors. Carry my petitions and we may interview you for  a job, buy a table at a dinner, and don’t show up, buy an ad in the journal, the stories go on and on. If the purpose of community control was to empower, in essence, to buy off community activists, community control achieved its purpose. New York City averted riots.

An unintended result, a few of the middle class districts thrived. The ‘loose” controls allowed districts to innovate. Superintendent Alvarado created a top to bottom professional development program  in close collaboration with the union, and saw marked progress for students. In Brooklyn, District 22 (Midwood-Sheepshead Bay) bused over a thousand Afro-American students from overcrowded schools to underutilized all-white school across the district; the district ended special education busing, all kids must be served by their home school; school-based budgeting and active, engaged leadership teams at the school and district level. All eventually quashed by a chancellor who feared loosing control.

In 1997 all personnel powers were removed from school boards, including selection of superintendents and principals. In 2002 the legislature overwhelmingly passed a mayoral control bill. The system has lurched from organization structure to organizational structure: from mega-districts, to affinity networks, to a return to superintendents, although with much less staff with distant School Support Centers.

 Chalkbeat has published a series of critical articles (Read herequestioning current leadership structure.

Aaron Pallas, a Columbia sociologist, in the NY Daily News, analyzes the high profile Renewal Schools and finds no difference than other schools in achievement. (Read here).

The Research Alliance for New York City, in a review of ten years of data, finds significant progress in moving students of color on to college.(Read report here)

Will punting simply push the same issue, extending mayoral control, into the next legislative  session?

Yes … and a big caveat: the governor has clout, substantial clout in the budgeting process and can roll a longer extension of mayoral control and “other related issues” into the budget and remove it as a campaign issue in 2018 when the governor and the entire legislature will be on the ballot. Will/Can the governor squeeze the Democrats and the Republicans to force a settlement in the special session? What will the governor extract from the mayor for extending mayoral control?

BTW, is anyone actually discussing a school management structure that keeps the mayor at the top of the pyramid, accountable at the polls, and, involves parents, teachers and the community in a a meaningful fashion, in other words, checks and balances?

Any ideas?  Let’s hear from you …

UPDATE: 10 PM Wednesday.   All sides on the edge of an agreement: two year extension of mayoral control (a year beyond the 2018 state elections) and a three year extension of the upstate tax extenders and naming the Tappen Zee Bridge for Cuomo pere,  Mario.

 

Who is Responsible for the Demise of Mayoral Control? Eva

Years ago I served on the teacher union negotiating team in New York City.  We started with formal meetings across the table with thick briefing books; each side presented “demands” and the other side agreed, disagreed or put aside for further discussion. Slowly, the number of “demands” was pared down to the core issues. We discussed an issue and management would respond, “We have to discuss among ourselves, we’ll be back in an hour.” The hour turned into two and three and more hours as management consulted with the city and school boards and “other interested parties.”

The ultimate decision-makers were management, the Board of Education, and the union; however. neither side wanted other organizations to publicly trash the ultimate settlement; consensus settlements are essential

In 1975 the negotiations began in the spring and moved through the summer as the differences narrowed, days before the start of school the city pitched toward default and layoff notices went out to  14,000 teachers. We rapidly moved from “Lets’ keep talking and start the school year” to a strike vote.  I still vividly remember the Delegate Assembly, after almost two days of around the clock negotiations, a strike vote was almost unanimously voted by the thousand plus delegates and teachers walked the picket line.

After a week on strike and a complex agreement teachers returned and later in the fall the union actually loaned the city money to avert default. (Read “How the UFT Saved the City” here) and in a couple of years all laid off teachers were offered jobs.

The 2002 mayoral control law in New York City has a sunset clause – unless it is extended the law sunsets, expires, the city returns to the previous management structure – a seven member board, one member appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor. In May the city would conduct school board elections in the 32 community school districts.

Under Mayor Bloomberg the legislature extended the law for multiple years, in 2009 the law did expire, the central board met and “re-hired” Chancellor Joel Klein and in August the legislature held a special session and renewed the law for multiple years.

This year the key players are the leader of majority Democrats in the Assembly, Carl Heastie and the Republican leader in the Senate, John Flanagan and Governor Cuomo.

Why is Flanagan, who represents a district on the north shore of Long Island, with no charter schools, such an avid supporter of charter schools?

The answer, in my view, is simple: dollars from national supporters of charter schools, i.e., Walmart, etc., and the major player: Eva Moskowitz

Eliza Shapiro at Politico writes,

“Moskowitz has run the network with the ferocity and urgency of a political campaign, with City Hall press conferences attacking the mayor, selectively placed op-eds and leaks in friendly media outlets, and a robust lobbying infrastructure in Albany that has helped cultivate support from Republican legislators outside the city.” 

“In January, during the fight over DeVos’ nomination, Moskowitz released a statement saying the nominee had “the talent, commitment, and leadership capacity to revitalize our public schools and deliver the promise of opportunity that excellent education provides.”

Most charter schools are community charter schools, idiomatically referred to as “Mon and Pop” charter schools. The question of whether the cap should increased has no impact on these schools. The network charter schools, charter management organizations with multiple schools, have opposed Trump policies. The only supporter of Trump policies in the charter world is Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz’s name was conspicuously absent, for example, from a public letter protesting Trump’s education budget, signed by the leaders of KIPP, Uncommon and Achievement First — the three other major charter networks in New York City. Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, sits on Success’s board, but has urged charter backers not to join the Trump administration.

While not sitting at the table, Eva clearly has veto power over any settlement. Flanagan needs the charter school dollars to fund campaigns to make sure the Republicans maintain their slim, very slim, one-vote majority in the Senate.

What happens next?

The legislature can return and extend mayoral control. or,

The borough presidents will appoint members to the central board and the current 13-member Panel for Education Priorities, nine appointed by the mayor will dissolve.

Three of the borough presidents, Reuben Diaz, the Bronx, Eric Adams, Brooklyn and Melinda Katz, Queens, will be candidates for citywide office four years down the road, all will be elected in November to their last term, they are term-limited. Maybe they’ll simply re-appoint Farina as their predecessors did in 2009, or, act independently to raise their own profile citywide.  Maybe they will question de Blasio/Farina education policies and encourage a public debate. In the past the borough president appointed members who were highly political, seeking political advantage for their borough president. (“political advantage” is a polite way of saying patronage).

Esmeralda Simmons, a professor at Medgar Evers College was a Dinkens appointee to the central board – I listened to her describe a totally politicized board (unfortunately no longer online).

While Regents members are ‘elected” by the Democratic majority in the Assembly to the best of my knowledge they are totally free to make any decision, and, the members are highly qualified.

If the Brooklyn selectee to a new central board is Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield, the mayor selections NYU Metro Center professor David Kirkland and education advocate Leonie Haimson, and other selectees who are highly regarded educators and advocates, a central board selected for expertise and advocacy, no political loyalty, the return to a central board might be fruitful.

While community school board authority was limited by 1997 legislation the elections might be highly contentious. The powers of local school boards could be limited, or, expanded by the central board.

Back in November, 2013, weeks after the de Blasio election I mused over whether we would engage in a wide-ranging public debate.

Tyack and Cuban in their seminal “Tinkering Toward Utopia,” a study of the school reform movement over many decades emphasizes that reforms are only embedded if they are bottom up, reforms must reflect the changes accepted by teachers and parents.

Tyack and Cuban argue that the ahistorical nature of most current reform proposals magnifies defects and understates the difficulty of changing the system. Policy talk has alternated between lamentation and overconfidence. The authors suggest that reformers today need to focus on ways to help teachers improve instruction from the inside out instead of decreeing change by remote control, and that reformers must also keep in mind the democratic purposes that guide public education.

The current reforms, regardless of their value, have been imposed from above. As teachers ask questions, push back, the administration shoves harder and harder, resulting in increasing frustration and hostility within schools.

The debate is currently over should we have districts or networks, the details of the teacher evaluation plan, letter grading of schools, closing of schools, etc., rather than the larger and more significant question: what are our core principles?

Do we want to continue a system based on choice and accountability, or, move to a system based on equity? Do we want a system driven by top-down proscriptive, requirements, a compliance-driven system, or, a bottom up system with key instructional decisions made at the district/school level?

Do we want a school system built around communities with a heavy dose of parent and community involvement or a school system driven by the goals of the mayor?

Do we want a school system in which parents, teachers and school leaders play a role in establishing policies at the school level, and if so, how do we monitor progress?

What are the “big ideas” that should drive teaching and learning in the 1800 plus schools?

Clearly, we have made substantial progress, clearly we have a long way to go. Past experience tells us that “politics as usual,’ behind the scenes wheeling-and-dealing for political advantage, would be destructive of all the gains over the last four years; returning to a central board without a selection process free from politics is returning to a seriously flawed management system. The current structure is far from perfect, some of my suggestions above are still absent from the mayoral control management model.

In my view the failure of achieving an extension of mayoral control is directly traceable to Eva Moskowitz – she holds millions of dollars to fund Republican campaigns in her grip, and, Flanagan and company could not afford, in political terms, to ignore her.

Not only is mayoral control being held hostage, so are the tax extenders that are crucial to supplement the budget of many upstate cities; if the tax extenders are not passed these communities will face staggering cuts in services.

As the legislature swirled toward adjournment a change was made in SUNY regs that allow charter schools to hire unlimited numbers of uncertified teachers and certify the teachers themselves – no edTPA, no exams at all (Read the story and link to the regulations here)

Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York, he wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Not much has changed.

 

 

 

Tick Tock: Mayoral Control Dangles by a Thread as the Legislature Enters Its Last Day: Can the Governor Be The Deal Maker?

Klein: ‘Hopeful’ For 2-Year Mayoral Control

By Nick Reisman

A two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools is under discussion, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said at the end of a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders.

“We’re hopeful we can do a two-year extender of mayoral,” he said after the meeting. “We’re hopeful. That’s not a deal.”

 

The state legislature will adjourn tomorrow, June 21st and the staffs of the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate will be up all night trying to cobble together the outstanding issues.

Why do issues wait until the last possible chance of agreement?

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Democrats are taking a firm stance.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed. and are non-controversial..

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation: public posture – a stalemate.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  Bill,”

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor Cuomo has made his position clear last week and was pessimistic in an interview 

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home and the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

A political aphorism: when you toss a rock into a pond of feces you never know who’ll get splashed.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism, and, if the New York City school system begins to disintegrate the Republicans can “get splashed.”

With all the state offices on the ballot in 2018 and Republicans holding a narrow one-seat majority is the risk too great?  The governor, as he has frequently done, can blame the catastrophe on the “dysfunctional legislature;” however, outside of New York City the Republicans had a majority, Cuomo needs a big majority in the city, and, the Democratic voters may look at the “splash stains” on his garments.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on charter schools and parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill (see above).

Or, a simple two year extension of mayoral control and come back to fight again in 2019.

The Assembly Dems, the Senate Repubs, the Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and the governor will each by vying to be the deal-maker

For my friends in Albany a late night and cold pizza

Mayoral Control and Charter Schools: Pawns on the Chessboard of Politics

Back in the eighties a major issue in Albany was the death penalty; Republicans and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) supported a death penalty law opposed by progressive Democrats. After a few years a death penalty law passed in both houses and Governor Cuomo pere vetoed the bill; the legislature overrode the veto – New York State had a death penalty law.

A few years later a Republican operative bemoaned the passage, “It was stupid, we gave up a great election issue.”

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Assembly Democrats taking a firm line.

Both houses of the state legislature, the Assembly and the Senate will adjourn on Wednesday, June 21st.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the Governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The legislature had three days to find common ground.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed and are non-controversial. If the tax extenders do not pass the communities would face serious fiscal hardships.

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills, all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  bill,

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor has made his position clear, and, was pessimistic in an interview,

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

“The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism.

The Democrats can hold the line – mayoral control is not linked to charter schools.

The Governor can attack, as he frequently does, in his words, the dysfunctional legislature.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on the number of charter schools and pass parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill, or, a compromise that makes no sense to anyone, except the legislature.

Pure crass politics, basic ideological beliefs and egos all clash.

In the calculus of politics who gains and who loses, who is the better chess player?

If no bill is passed the legislature can return later in the summer or after election day; however, special sessions are rare.

19th century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck is credited with saying: “The two things you don’t want to see made in person are sausages and laws.”

A wise man.

New York State Reduces Grades 3-8 Testing from Three to Two Days, and, We Learn: Test Creation is Complicated, and the Results – Relatively Meaningless.

In the summer of 2015 I was at a fundraiser for a local candidate on Long Island and talked with a number of leaders of local teacher unions. They had endorsed Zephyr Teachout who was running against Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent governor, in the democratic primary. I mentioned that if Cuomo won, there would be consequences.

Cuomo won, and in the “big ugly,” the rolling together of non-budgetary items into the budget Cuomo added a number of anti-teacher/teacher union policies. He expended probation from three to four years and also added a number of pro-charter school laws.

Payback can be a bitch. Politics is all about winning and losing.

NYSUT, the New York State United Teachers, the state-wide teacher union began a series of anti-Cuomo TV ads and joined up with the opt-out parents. The governor’s favorability ratings nose dived.

Let us not forget the first teacher who was terminated was Socrates, accused “corruption of the youth of the city-state,” and, since there was no union, the punishment, the 3020a of the era, was quite harsh.

“...consistent with common legal practice, the jurors voted and agreed to a sentence of death to be executed by Socrates drinking a poisonous beverage of hemlock

In the 1790’s two of our founding fathers, Jefferson and Hamilton, were bitter rivals,  Jefferson, surreptitiously hired James Callender, a sleazy publisher, who unearthed and publicly exposed a Hamilton affair with a married women, Maria Reynolds, an affair that may have been arranged by the woman’s husband. Callender later turned on Jefferson accusing him of fathering mixed race children, which happened to be true.

Politics is a full contact sport

In September, 2015 Cuomo appointed a commission, similar in membership to a commission appointed a few years earlier. The earlier commission held meetings around the state, hours and hours of testimony, and issued a report that came to naught. The 2015 commission (called a task force) met  quietly and issued a report in December, 2015, an attempt, on the part of Cuomo, the Regents and the unions, to repair relationships and set a path for education in the state. The task force (read full report here) made twenty-one recommendations.

The last recommendation removed a thorn in the body of the teaching force,

Until the new system (whatever that is …) is fully phased in the results from assessments aligned to the common core standards, as well as the updated standards, shall only be advisory and not used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers or students.

A few of the other recommendations,

Adopt high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through an open and transparent process

Modify early grade standards so that they are age-appropriate.

and

Reduce the number of days and shorten the duration for standards-aligned State standardized tests.

The Commissioner can check off another item on her “to do” list.

Early Monday morning the Standards Work Group of the Regents convened and the “discussion” dragged on for a few hours. Regent Chin skillfully guided the discussion. Scott Marion, one of the consultants leading the process, described himself as a “recovering psychometrician,” presented a dense and fascinating power point. If you’re taking a “testing and measurement” course and have always been baffled by test creation and design take a look at the Marion power point.

Considerations for New York State Assessments: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/P-12%20Considerations%20for%20the%20NY%20State%20Assessment%20System.pdf

Especially check out “The Life Cycle of an ELA Test Item (slide 17),” – fascinating.

The bottom line: every change has consequences, every plus has a minus, every change, a new baseline, a shorter test, fewer items, fewer days, less accurate, a “new” configuration, more time to score the test, One of the Regents described the test as an “accountability,” not a “diagnostic” test. Marion, politely demurred. yes, the test is used for accountability, to compare schools/school districts to the previous year, less useful for an individual student; however, school leaders can use the results to construct error matrices and use the results to guide instruction and professional development in the following year.

The members of the Board approved the motion to move from three days of testing for ELA and math to two days, with, I believe Regents Brown and Young abstaining. Correctly, they worried about a cycle of changes that would be confusing to the public.

Last year was the first year of untimed tests, although the scores jumped there was no baseline, we have no idea if the scores jumped due to better instruction, or, probably, due to extended time. This year’s scores will be compared to the baseline, last year’s scores; however, next year, a new baseline year.

The 2018 test, a two-day test, will create a new baseline, and, the 2019 tests can be compared to 2018. Of course, if the Regents implement the Next Generation of Standards, guess what, another baseline year has to be established.

Are we entering into a cycle of meaningless testing years? Yup ….

Next year the Regents will begin to explore alternative assessments, and, having everyone, from the governor on down on the same page, just may result in substantive changes.

And, of course, that core question: why and what are we testing?

Saving Schools That Save Students: Alternative High Schools Are An Essential Element of School Districts

I guess we can call 2016-17 “The Year of ESSA,” the planning/crafting year of the federally required Every Student Succeeds Act that will submitted to the US Department of Education in September.

Two of the leading education thinkers in the nation, Linda Darling-Hammond and Scott Marion have guided the process, scores of hours of meetings, discussions all leading to an accountability plan: identifying the lowest 5% of Title 1 schools. and creating school improvement plans.

The process has been transparent, with endless opportunities for feedback and public comment.

Tuesday night the State Ed held one of many public forums at a high school in Brooklyn, and I traveled out to give my three minutes of wisdom.

The Long Island meeting only had 50 attendees and 11 speakers, compared to the Common Core open meetings that were packed, angry audiences, so angry that Commissioner King suspended the meetings.

I arrived early and was surprised – the auditorium had a couple of hundred attendees, mostly high school students and teachers.

Commissioner Elia, flanked by Regents Cashin and Reyes sat at a table with League of Women Voter volunteers monitoring the three-minute speaking time limit.

The first speaker was Tim Lissante, the Superintendent of District 79, the organization that runs the rich panoply of alternative high schools . Part of the portfolio are Transfer High Schools, there are about fifty, they only accept overage and undercredited students. One of the schools, South Brooklyn Community High School admissions requirements,

… must have attended high school for at least one year, a history of truancy, have a minimum of eight credits, a 6th-grade or higher reading level and have passed at least one Regents exam.

The speakers were mostly students from transfer high schools. The draft ESSA plan sets a 67% graduation rate for all schools. Transfer schools accept students who are well along a path to dropping out of schools; in fact, if we track students eligible for transfer schools who did not switch to a transfer school the vast percentage do not graduate.

Sadly, even in transfer schools, students fail to pass regents exams and accumulate credits, and, the students are faced with a reality, they are getting older and need to work.  Some move on to Pathways, the Department term for GED programs. (The State no longer supports the GED exam, now owned by Pearson,. the State supports another test referred to by the acronym TASC – read about the test here).

The student speakers, fearing the school that literally changed their lives would close, poured their heart and soul into their statements.

“My mother was addicted to drugs and I had to run the household.”

“I was in Rikers for a year, couldn’t make bail, the judge told me to get a high school diploma”

“I was living on my own and I was evicted”

Story after story ending in “my school changed my life.”

The students were emotionally wrought, a few “choked up” they couldn’t speak, the students in the audience cheered and encouraged every speaker.

Transfer schools should be compared to other transfer schools with the lowest five percent requiring intervention, not to all other schools.

I was speaker # 37 and I had intended to summarize one of my prior blogs, as an experienced teacher I changed my lesson plan to meet the changing circumstances.

A few weeks earlier I had a conversation with a higher up in the Department. He made an interesting suggestion. Students pass a few regents exams, not the required five exams, parts of the TASC exam, not the entire exam. Under the current rules they do not receive a regents diploma or a high school equivalency diploma.

The “higher up” asked was it possible to figure out a process to combine passing “a few regents exams” and “part of TASC” as an additional pathway to a local diploma? An innovative idea that deserves exploration.

High school diplomas and GED diplomas change the direction of student lives.

Throughout the evening the commissioner was actively taking notes.

Other speakers supported a group of 39 Performance-Based Assessment Schools: State Ed has granted waivers from regents exams (students only take the English Regents) for many years, the ESSA plan would have to address the waivers in the plan.

A few advocates opposed the entire plan – the plan doesn’t address class size, the teaching of the arts, age-appropriate standards, etc. A number of parents from District 15 (Brownstone Brooklyn) urged the commissioner to support school integration efforts. (The NYC Department had released a “school diversity” plan earlier in the day – read here).

On Monday, the June Regents Meeting, the commissioner will continue to guide the discussion, the plan will move to the governor in July and a vote on the full plan in September.

The plan is only a first step, the other side of the plan, how do you “improve” the lowest 5% is the challenge. We have been writing school improvement plans for decades, without much to show for it. We have learned, or should have learned, that schools are part of communities and you can’t take the school out of the community. We can select the best school leaders and best teachers, unless we fund the schools adequately and unless we address the issues confronting the communities encompassing the school we will face the same “crisis” again and again.

Community schools, schools that expand their reach and partner with the social service agencies serving the community acknowledges the essential school-community partnerships.

One of the high schools that spoke was Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night High School, a school that only accepts student from 18 to 21 years of age and has an extremely flexible school schedule. About half the students are English language learners and many new immigrants. The Department of Education Quality Review (Fall, 2016) finds the schools Well-Developed or Proficient in every area and the school struggles to meet the 67% graduation rate.

Graduates of the school have college completion rates well above the rates for all other schools. The schools works with a not-for-profit, Comprehensive Development, Inc,

According to CUNY’s most recent Where Are They Now? report, students who receive CDI services average 26% higher in GPA, 15% higher in course pass rate, and 14% higher in first year college retention.

The Board of Regents has widened the path to graduation, created multiple pathways to address the needs of our complex student body and keep standards at a high level.  I have confidence that the commissioner and the board can craft a plan that protects schools that protect our neediest students.

 

Why Are the NYS Republicans Such Avid Supporters of Charter Schools? Think Walton Family Dollars: Boycott Walmart

I was ease dropping on a conversation at an educational forum, a teacher was engaging an Afro-American charter school parent.

Teacher: “Did you know that charter schools routinely suspend and throw out students who misbehave and refuse to enroll  students with disabilities and English language learners?”

Parent: “That exactly why I send my child to a charter school.”

Charter schools have pretty successfully appealed to parents with social capital,  parents who see charter schools as providing a “success-oriented” experience, parents who are must likely to have middle class schooling values.

In a private conversation a charter school acolyte argued that the purpose of charter schools was to provide an education for the “talented tenth,” a concept promoted by WEB DuBois,

“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst, in their own and other races”

Other charter school folk are “free marketeers;” allow schools to “sink or swim,” parents will make choices and these choices will determine the future of individual schools,; successful and unsuccessful schools will be just like any other corporation. While schools deal with children, not widgets, market forces should determine their success.

And for others charter schools are an opportunity to weaken teacher unions; unions erode corporate profits.

A little history: In December, 1998, NYS Governor George Pataki called the legislature back into session with two items on the agenda – a raise and a charter school law, no surprise with the outcome. BTW, the last raise the legislators received.

The law delegated the authorization of charter schools to a division of the State University (SUNY) and the Board of Regents. The law also established caps on the number of charter schools, one for New York City and another for the remainder of the state. There are about 25 slots left in New York City and 150 in the remainder of the state. Outside of New York City charters are concentrated in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. There are very few charters in the Republican suburban districts.

Creating a charter school is an elaborate process, the application is detailed and lengthy and authorizers, at least in New York State, carefully vet the applicants. In the current round seventeen applicants began the process – three schools were approved.

The law (the entire law here) and key sections,

A charter school shall meet the  same  health  and  safety,  civil  rights,  and  student assessment requirements applicable to other public  schools …  A  charter  school  shall  be  exempt  from all other state and local laws,  rules, regulations or policies  governing  public  or  private  schools,

A charter school shall design its educational programs to meet  or  exceed the student performance standards adopted by the board of regents  and the student performance standards contained in the charter  A charter  school  shall  not  discriminate  against  any student, employee or any other person on  the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or  disability  or  any  other  ground  that  would be unlawful if done by a school. Admission of  students shall not be limited on  the  basis  of  intellectual  ability,  measures of achievement or aptitude, athletic ability, disability, race,  creed,   gender,  national  origin,  religion 

the  charter   school   shall  demonstrate  good  faith  efforts  to attract and retain a comparable or  greater enrollment  of  students  with  disabilities,  English  language  learners,  and  students  who  are  eligible applicants for the free and  reduced price lunch program when compared to the enrollment figures  for  such  students  in  the  school  district in which the charter school is  located.

Charters are granted for five years, and, in the fifth year the authorizer reviews the extent to which the  school has fulfilled the goals of the charter. Authorizers may extend the charter for any length of time from two to a full five years, or, terminate the charter.

Charter schools are either part of networks, i. e., the Eva Moskowitz Success Network, Harlem Children’s Zone, Uncommon Schools, etc., or community schools, individual charter schools, colloquially referred to as  “mom and pop” charter schools.

The governor, depending on the election cycle has been favorable to charter schools, or, agnostic. The Republicans in the Senate pro-charter and the Democrats in the Assembly generally hostile. The charter school law has been virtually unchanged since its inception. The charter school networks raise substantial dollars through philanthropy, the largesse of large corporate supporters. The larger networks are able to provide shiny new schools, low class size, the best materials   and targeted professional development. The critics, the unions and public school advocates criticize; charter schools are test prep mills, discharge poor performers and limit the acceptance of students with disabilities and English language learners.

On the political side a major funder of the charter school movement is the Walton Foundation, that’s right, the family that owns Walmart. Walton dollars fund Families for Excellent Schools, the political arm of the charter school movement and has increasingly poured dollars into the Republican coffers to keep the Repubs in the Senate in the majority.

Teacher voluntary contributions through their unions average less than $50 per member are dwarfed by major contributors on the charter side,

… eight wealthy individuals who wrote six- or seven-figure checks to several independent expenditure committees that were created  to back efforts such as an expansion of charter schools or the creation of an education tax credit that would have remained viable only if Republicans maintained control of the Senate.

Jim and Alice Walton contributed $2.8 million in 2016 to a variety of charter school Political Action Committees, (PACs). In the new age of politics, the post Citizen’s United world, there are no limits on political contributions. Two residents of Arkansas can drive local elections in New York State. What can be done?

* If you don’t already, boycott Walmart, and send them a letter telling them why!!

* Contribute to the politician of your choice, you’d be surprised. every dollar counts and small contributions multiplied many times equals winning elections.

* Contribute to your union’s political action fund. (COPE) – unions can target dollars to particular elections, and, they have won a couple of former Republican seats over the last few years.

I know, I know, none of us have the dollars that the Waltons have; however, we are the many, a million teachers contributing $100 a year is $100,000,000 – dollars that can win lots of elections. Signing Change.org petitions, writing e-mails, all fine, it’s the dollars that win elections.

Remember: the constitutional convention question – creating an elected constitutional convention that could recommend to voters changes  to the state constitution, and, changing existing public employee pensions – will be on the ballot – with the Waltons and friends hovering in the wings with tens of millions of political dollars to spend.