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Massachusetts Governor Baker and the Charter School Question on the Ballot: Has the 2020 Presidential Election Begun?

“I will be voting no on Question 2 … I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.” Elizabeth Warren in the Boston Globe, 9/26/16

“Donors to the pro-charter school campaign include two prominent millionaires – former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg who contributed $240,000 and Jim Walton of Arizona, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, who contributed more than $1.1 million.” WCVB, 9/10/16

The Manhattan Institute hosted Governor Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of a blue state, Massachusetts, and one of the most popular governors in the nation.  The Governor traipsed down from Boston to defend Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot – a proposal to allow the creation of 12 additional charter schools a year, sites to be determined by the state.

The proposal is highly controversial in Massachusetts and across the nation.

What is perplexing is why the governor of the state with the best educational system in the nation would expend so much political capital on a contentious and highly questionable proposition.

If Massachusetts was considered a nation it would be at the top of the world in educational attainment.

Forbes reports,

… if Massachusetts were allowed to report subject scores independently — much the way that, say, Shanghai is allowed to do so — the Bay State would rank 9th in the world in Math Proficiency, tied with Japan, and on the heels of 8th-ranked Switzerland. In reading, Massachusetts would rank fourth in the world, tied with Hong Kong, and not far behind third-ranked Finland.

How Massachusetts raised itself to the top of the state heap is straightforward, the Education Reform Act of 1993, frequently referred to as the “Grand Bargain.”

“We will make a massive infusion of progressively distributed dollars into our public schools, and in return, we demand high standards and accountability from all education stakeholders. This grand bargain is the cornerstone of education reform.”

The law provided the following,

1) Curriculum frameworks in each subject; (View the frameworks here)

2) State testing – the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System:  View MCAS test items here)

3) State tests for graduation, which students could take beginning in the tenth grade, and which they were given multiple opportunities to retake until they passed;

4) More time for instruction;

5) Entry tests for new teachers;

6) A new foundation budget that raised funding across the state, especially in high-needs districts;

7) 22 charter schools for the entire state (currently there about 75).

It is also noteworthy that the state increased early childhood education funding by 247% between 1996 and 1999.

The combination of an equitable funding formula, highly regarded standards and rigorous entry standards for teachers resulted in very impressive outcomes.

When the Massachusetts legislature failed to raise the charter cap pro charter folk collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot. The battle for and against the question has been extremely costly, millions of dollars poured into the ballot question. Polls give the “no” votes a slim lead within the margin of error.

The Governor based his support on ending the suburban versus urban achievement gap.  Baker proffered that the 75 or so charter schools in Massachusetts, mostly in high poverty cities were outperforming public schools.  Scott claimed the longer school day and school year resulted in 50% greater instructional time, and, was the primary reason for the higher test scores. To a question about high suspension rates and high attrition rates in charter schools Scott pushed back, sort of.  From what I heard from Baker charter schools had higher graduation rates, among the students who remained.

To my question: whether he agreed with Jeb Bush that all parent should be given a voucher to choose any type of school, public, charter, independent,  Baker punted. “I’m only concerned with the question before the voters.”

Baker failed to address the core question: if charter schools are doing better than similarly situated public schools, why are they more successful?  There is no evidence that the longer school day and school year equals higher test scores. In fact, charter schools vary widely in achievement. Baker argued that the pre-screening of new charter school applicants and the closing of struggling charters was working well.

I am not familiar with the charter school data from Massachusetts.  In New York State charter schools vary greatly in quality and the charter schools with the highest achievement also raise significant dollars through philanthropy. High suspension rates and attrition; maybe forcing out the lowest achievers, impact test scores, and appears to be the norm.

Some of the charter networks are highly organized with high quality materials and low teacher-student ratios, others, struggle to meet payrolls.

If there is a “secret sauce,” I’m unaware of it.

I listened to a discussion, a public school teacher asked a charter school parent, “Do you know that charter schools force out discipline problems and low achievers?” The charter school parent replied, “Yes, that’s why I send my children to a charter school.”

Yes, charter schools select students by lottery; however, the parents who participate in the lottery are parents with greater social capital. The parents who do not participate in the lottery, who are unaware of charter schools may be parents with less ability to assist their own children.

Are charter schools a triage model?

Do charter schools effectively “cream” the most able students? Do charter schools educate the “talented tenth?”

… in 1903 in a book called The Negro Problem, W. E. B. DuBois wrote:  “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.”

Charter school devotees seem to be saying, and Baker fits into the scenario: the lottery divides parents into those that are aware of the lottery and others who are not; charter schools enforce strict discipline and force out those that don’t conform to the model and don’t enroll, to the extent possible, children with special needs. Charter schools are far more successful that public schools in the same catchment area, basically they are a triage model, a sort of “talented tenth;” however, if it wasn’t for charter schools all children would be receiving an unsatisfactory education. In a way we are a magnet school type option, and, we have put pressure on the local schools to improve in order to compete with us. We may not be “fair” to the neighborhood schools; our model is more than fair for the children we serve.

Not Baker’s words, clearly what Baker implied.

Why would a highly popular governor involve himself in a highly divisive fight?  Cuomo picked a fight with teachers, passed a number of anti-teacher laws, engaged in a war of words, lost the war, and is still scrambling to regain his credibility among teachers and parents.

I believe, maybe totally off base, that Baker is establishing a place on the Republican spectrum; the 2016 Republican contenders became pretenders. He is creating a place for a Romney/Reagan Republican appealing to the “old” Republican Party and the right of center Democrats.  When asked about the Affordable Care Act he acknowledged problems and saw the solutions among the governors.  He did not trash the law as others Republicans have taken as a reflex action.

His support of the question on the ballot is simply checking a box on the potential presidential candidate checklist.

He is a thoughtful, engaging speaker, and, quite popular in a state dominated by Democrats. The 2020 presidential race has begun before the 2016 race has ended.

A Quiet Revolution: The Education Law, ESSA, May Change the Face of Education (If You’re in the Right State!!)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

One of recurring themes in American history is the conflict between the powers of Washington versus the powers of the states. The 10th Amendment underlines powers “delegated” to Washington and “reserved” to the states; however, over time Washington has inexorably eroded the powers of states, especially in education.

In Brown v Board of Education (1954) the Court decided, ”separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and in the Court’s second decision in Brown II only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provided funds to primary and secondary high poverty schools; Title 1 of the statue emphasizes equal access to education and accountability. In addition, the law aims to shorten the achievement between students by providing each child with “fair and equal opportunities to achieve an exceptional education.”

The courts and the federal government were intruding where the states were failing in their responsibilities.

The 10th Amendment Center reports, “Since 1980 (the establishment of the US Department of Education), during the Carter Administration, America’s K-12 education system has come under increasing control by the dictates of the federal Department of Education (DOE) with failing results, taxing states and filtering the money through Washington to return a portion of it back to the states.”

The Brookings Institute calls the 2002.No Child Left Behind “… the most important legislation in American education since the 1960s. The law requires states to put into place a set of standards together with a comprehensive testing plan designed to ensure these standards are met. Students at schools that fail to meet those standards may leave for other schools, and schools not progressing adequately become subject to reorganization.”  The bipartisan law was praised across the political spectrum. As the years progressed the law was increasingly criticized, especially the testing regime required sanctions.

The Obama administration continued and expanded the federal role, the Common Core State Standards, sponsored by the National Governors’ Association, and adopted by 46 states, resulted in the formation of two testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balance, with funding from the feds. In effect, we now had a set of national standards.

The Race to the Top, over $4 billion in competitive grants required schools to commit to the Common Core, expand charter schools and create a student test score-based teacher evaluation system

Every classroom was influenced by Washington imposed regulations and parents, teachers and school leaders pushed back. In New York State twenty percent of parents opted out of the state tests. The opposition, supported by teachers and their union, bled into day-to-day politics. Electeds and candidates jumped on board sharply opposing the Obama education initiatives.

Slowly the opposition to Obama and NCLB resulted in the creation of bills, at first Republican bills in the House that died in the Senate, Senators Patty Murray (D) and Lamar Alexander (R) crafted a Senate bill that crept through both houses and was signed by the President. The law, the Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA) rolls back the federal role in education policy-making.

While the law continues the required grades 3-8 testing the law delegates to the states the creation of school accountability plans. The fifty states are in the process of creating plans; while the law grants states wide discretion the plans must meet rigorous evidenced-based standards.

Read draft ESSA regulations:

New York State started quickly, targeting the March submission date, and, at the October Board of Regents meeting slowed down, agreeing to move to the July date.

The Commissioner has created a ESSA Think Tank made up of a wide range of stakeholders to participate in developing pathways. View the October Regents Meeting PowerPoint description of the process to date:

Read a lengthier description of the process: ,

ESSA retains many of the core provisions of No Child Left Behind (the previous reauthorization of ESEA) related to standards, assessments, accountability, and use of Federal funds. However, ESSA does provide states with much greater flexibility in many areas, including the methodologies for differentiating the performance of schools and the supports and interventions to provide when schools are in need of improvement.

View the beginning of the state plan: the Guiding Principles, the Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools and the High Concept Ideas at the links below.

Draft Guiding Principles

Draft Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools

High Concept Ideas

Among the controversial sections of the draft New York State plan is the question of proficiency versus growth. Should schools be “judged” based on the percentages of students, and subgroups of students that meet state-established proficiency or should growth play a major role: the percentage of students who show year to year growth on the state tests? Or should the accountability metric combine proficiency and growth, and, if so, what should the mix look like? For example, 85% proficiency or 85% growth?

The proficiency v growth issue is being hotly debated among the stakeholders and the advocacy community. For example, Education Trust – New York is supporting a proficiency-based model as well as vigorous interventions at the school level.

Ensure that academic achievement drives school performance determinations and improvement strategies. This should be done by maintaining high standards; ensuring that academic measures represent more than 75 percent of a school’s rating; and limiting the number of accountability indicators.

Require immediate action when schools are not meeting rigorous expectations for any group of students. Ambitious performance and gap-closing goals should be set for all groups of students, and — following a needs assessment and with school district and, where necessary, state support — evidence-based strategies implemented when those goals are not met.

See Ed Trust position papers here  and here.

At the October UFT Delegate Meeting UFT President Mulgrew supported the growth concept. He asked, “Why punish teachers in high poverty schools if the children are making progress?”

This will be a major point of contention as the Regents move toward crafting a final plan.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has produced a valuable document, a look at what a number of states and advocacy organizations are working on and advocating.

View Overview of Proposed Accountability Models:

Another organization, Chiefs for Change is working with fifteen states, in the creation of state plans. In a policy paper entitled, “ESSA Indicators of School Quality and Student Success” the Chiefs explore the research, for example, student attendance, teacher attendance, student suspensions, school climate, non-cognitive skills, etc., how do they impact student achievement? The Chiefs also have an interesting paper on evidence, ESSA requires that all plan meet high standards of evidence and Chief’s explore the question of what constitutes evidence. View paper:

New Hampshire continues to move toward performance tasks in lieu of state tests, Vermont will explore portfolios, in the 1990’s they abandoned plans, an outside evaluation reviewer criticized their plans; it was not possible to create inter rater reliability. Will a portfolio reviewer in Scarsdale grade the same as a portfolio reviewer in East New York?

From coast to coast states are exploring evidence-based accountability proposals. Some will stick with the current PARCC or Smarter Balance tests or tests developed specifically for the individual states, some will move away from proficiency towards growth, a few will explore performance tasks and other authentic assessments. All have to pass the stringent evidence-based requirements of the law.

Perhaps for the first time in many decades educational decisions, reserved for the states, will be made by the states.

The Lysistrata Effect: Misogyny, Women and the Presidential Election

If you live in an apartment house you have laundry room and elevator friends. I chat in the laundry room waiting for the spin cycle to end, my neighbor describes himself as a “Reagan-Romney Republican” and he calls me a “Paul Krugman Democrat.”

“I can’t wait for this election to be over – I can’t vote for Trump, I’ve always voted for the Republican candidate, I can’t this time, plus, my wife would kill me – she’s working for Hillary.”

“It’s a secret ballot, how would she ever know?”

“Oh she’d know, my first wife found about my girlfriend and my girlfriend found out about my wife – they always find out.”

This election reminds me of a 5th century play Lysistrata by the Greek playwright Aristophanes.

Lysistrata is an account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace.

The Lysistrata Effect: the impact of women in this election is unparalleled. The NY Times Chances of Winning metric has Hillary at 92% – the highest percentage since the candidates were nominated. The fivethirtyeight blog predicts Hillary with 343 electoral votes (270 required for a win) and Hillary leads in the popular vote 49 – 42 percent.

My neighbor said, “I can’t wait for this election to be over and we can get back to politics as usual.”

We’re not going back to “politics as usual,” Trump may very well be trashed in this election, he is not going away. The Democrats may very well close the gap in the House of Representatives; however, they will win seats in contested districts and defeat the more liberal Republicans, I know liberal Republican is an oxymoron, they are liberal when compared to the Tea Party Republicans, the Freedom Caucus.  If the Freedom Caucus withholds votes they will be able to prevent Paul Ryan from being elected as speaker and prevent any bill from coming to the floor. Will the mainstream Republicans forgo the “Hastert Rule” and seek Democratic votes to elect a speaker and pass legislation?

Will Trump support Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries to attempt to defeat Republicans who did not support him?

We are entering into a chaordic age, “… the behavior of any self-governing organism, organization, or system which harmoniously blends characteristics of order and chaos.” Perhaps we are moving to a realignment of parties, maybe similar to the Independent Democratic Coalition (IDC) in the Albany Senate.

“You can’t go home again,” you can only look forward, and there is no question that the future is murky. The voting public is alienated from the political system; only 57.2% of eligibles voted in the 2012 election, Of the 35 OECD nations the US is in 26th place in percent of eligibles who vote. There is little question that negative campaigning tears down candidates, too many Americans have no faith in our political system.

James Madison, in Federalist # 51 framed the necessary conflicts between governors and the governed.

 … what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.

What Should Be the First Educational Initiative of the HRC Administration?

Woke up this morning and checked out my phone: emails, tweets (a different world!), and, scanned the NY Times online. Every day the Times have a graphic, the percentages predicting the presidential election outcome. In July Hillary was in the mid-eighties and by mid-September had dipped to the mid-seventies. This morning Hillary hit 89% – the highest Times election prediction.

The Nate Silver fivethirtyeight blog  predicts Clinton 86.4% and 341 electoral votes (270 needed for victory), and, in the popular vote Clinton leads 49% to 42%.

The Third Presidential Debate will take on Wednesday, October 19th in Las Vegas; Chris Wallace of Fox will be the moderator. The tenor of the debates will not change.

Trump has “legitimatized” racism, misogamy and homophobia, voters may think and not use the “N” word, don’t worry, Trump is the surrogate. For the Trump camp the hope is in the lessons from the Brixit and the Columbia plebiscites, the polls predicted “yes” votes and the “no” prevailed in both cases. Are there Trump votes outside of the reach of the pollsters? Trump will be Trump, hoping that the lesson from Brixit prevails.

With pollsters predicting a big Hillary victory will Trump voters throw in the towel and not bother voting, and/or, will the Hillary voters, anticipating a big Hillary win will also not bother to vote?

Hopefully, I’ll feel relieved on November 9th

A couple of weeks after the election HRC, (G-d willing!!) will begin nominating cabinet members. Who will be the Secretary of Education?  I can give you a list of who will NOT be nominated; I have no idea of the nominee.

The first hundred days are crucial for incoming presidents: setting the tone for the presidency. Bill Clinton chose health care reform and stumbled badly. His presidency never achieved the accomplishments he anticipated.  While Hillary may regain the Senate it is unlikely the Democrats will also seize the House. The Republicans have been successful in thwarting Obama, with relatively little voter negativity.  Plus, history shows that midterm elections usually favor the “out” party. In 2010 and 2014 the Republicans thrashed the Democrats in the midterm elections. HRC will have a two year window to convince the nation that she was the “right” choice.

Reducing poverty and supporting the middle class is at the heart of the HRC agenda; however they are heavy lifts (See Brookings Institute paper here)

… graduating from high school, belonging to a family with at least one full-time worker, and having children while married and after age 21—correlated closely with economic success. We call this the “success sequence.” Individuals who follow it almost never live in poverty.

What can Hillary do in the field of education that does not require legislation or will be bipartisan?

For example: the college student debt crisis is acknowledged by both parties; however, the parties sharply disagree on the path.

How do we help students complete high school with the skills needed to pursue their goals? Raising graduation rates will require not just new kinds of high schools, but investment in children at all stages of life: home visiting, early childhood education, and new efforts in the primary grades.[ Home visiting programs improve parenting and connect families to adequate medical care. The effects continue well into adolescence. Similarly, research suggests that low cost interventions like providing parents with books and texting them reminders to read to their children, can have substantial effects on child literacy skills.

All of the interventions listed above cost dollars and a Republican Congress will not support the legislation. In addition, the policies are local, policies that have to be adopted at the state and local levels. The Obama/Duncan efforts alienated teachers and communities; once again, big, bad Washington telling us what to do and how to do it. The best decisions are usually made by teachers and school leaders supported by superintendents and the education hierarchy. Sadly Washington, or Albany or Tweed issue ukases, the troops salute, and very little changes. Race to the Top, 4.4 billion dollars, over $700 million to New York State: is there any evidence that the dollars changed outcomes?

I would suggest a major initiative: Career and Technical Education, former known as Vocational Education, a policy that can be supported by both parties; the new ESSA law devolves policy initiatives to the state level  Bipartisan federal legislation to encourage state and local educational authorities to create paths to employment would play a major role in reducing poverty.

I was speaking with a middle school principal in an extremely poor neighborhood – he asked his counselor to make every effort to guide his eighth graders to vocational high schools.

“My kids need jobs, their path out of poverty is a job and they need skills, high school has to mean something, they need a purpose to continue in school, spending four years learning academics and a skill, an internship, working as an apprentice will prepare my kids to lift themselves into the middle class.”

Packaged federal programs, like P-TECH, sound nice, receive a great deal of ink, and impact a miniscule number of kids; vocational, or, to use the current term Career and Technical Education (CTE) costs money to start and cost dollars to support. CTE programs must link with industries who are the potential employers as well as unions who will be the colleagues of the new workers.

There is no prep-packaged solution, HRC should not make the same fatal mistake that Obama-Duncan made, the paths, and there are many, must be created at the local level.

Schools have never been good at working beyond the boundaries of school buildings; a first meeting rarely results in a partnership. The most effective partnerships are created locally, by a school leader, Manhattan Day and Night Comprehensive High School works with Deutsche Bank, the fifteen International High Schools (all students have been in the country four years or less) work with the Internationals Network, a 401 that raises dollars to support the schools in the network,  public, not charter schools. Conversely Automotive High School has been on the verge of closing for years.

Manhattan Institute sees hope: two research briefs by Tamar Jacoby look to the future:

 Education 2.0: Employers Hold the Key to Better Career Training Vocational Education  and Keeping New York City on the Cutting Edge of Technical Education.

The European Union has well -established vocational education programs in schools as well as retraining programs for adults (Read a detailed report here)

There are at least a dozen high-profile education topics, from pre-kindergarten, the Common Core, charter schools, testing, teacher college preparation, all worthy of examination by the new administration; however; all are riddled with controversy and are best left to local decision-making. The belief that the best road out of poverty is a job is held across party lines and education and the private sector can partner and the nation will applaud.

The losers, the Republicans, will continue to do what has worked, obstructionism, and HRC needs winners, policies that are so popular that opposing them will alienate the citizenry: I believe Vocational Education, CTE is that issue.

How Will the New Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Impact Teachers and Schools?

Fifty states are deeply involved in creating accountability plans required by the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): what does it mean for teachers and schools?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and ESSA both require that states test all students in grades 3-8, identify the lowest achieving schools, establish intervention strategies and NCLB required either transforming, redesigning, closing or converting the lowest achieving schools to charter; ESSA gives states wide latitude in designing intervention strategies.

Under the new law, ESSA, states can use the PARCC, Smarter Balance or a test designed or purchased by states for accountability purposes.  A few states are exploring alternatives: performance tasks or other authentic assessments, perhaps portfolios of student work. No matter the assessment tool the process will identify the bottom five percent and each state must determine an intervention strategy.

Let me repeat – there will always be a bottom five percent; states decide the process that identifies the bottom five percent.  There are 4400 schools in New York State; five percent equals 220 schools that will end up in the bottom five percent. (Actually high schools use a different metric: schools in which a third of students fail to graduate and in the following year schools in which subgroups underperform).

The determination of the bottom five percent is currently based on proficiency, aka, test scores. In the scholarly circles the debate has centered around “proficiency” versus “growth.”

Andrew Ho and colleagues have been sharply critical of proficiency as the sole assessment tool.

Leah Schafer, in When Proficient Isn’t Good: The Deceptive Nature of Proficiency as a Measure of Student Progress – and How to Fix the Funhouse Mirror, summarizes Ho’s position,

First, he says, “these initial proficiency markers are arbitrary, determined by an overwrought, judgmental, and ultimately political process.” The setting of a cut score is ultimately a judgement, as Ho so accurately puts it, “ultimately a political process.” In New York State the Common Core test cut scores that caused the outcry and created the opt-out movement and resulted in the demise of John King was a political decision and, different states set cut scores that vary significantly from state to state.

Aside from distorting comparisons between states, percent proficient can distort perceptions of growth within a state, or district, or classroom. High income suburban schools will all have scores above proficient while high poverty schools will almost always have scores below proficient regardless of the efforts of staffs and districts.

The third problem, Ho explains, raises concerns about achievement gaps — for example, average differences between test scores of white or higher-income students and minority or poor students. When comparing two groups of students, whichever group has percentages closer to 50 percent will appear to progress or regress faster, leading to assumptions about changes in the achievement gap that are incorrect — another illusion.

I urge you to take a deep dive into “A Practitioner’s Guide to Growth Models, (February, 2013), Katherine E. Castellano and Andrew D. Ho, for The Council of Chief State School Officers.

We will probably end up with a combination of proficiency and growth. Some argue, a “growth to proficiency” model – perhaps something like 85% proficiency/15% growth while others argue the opposite 85% growth/15% proficiency. Under the current proficiency model just about all the five percent schools are in the highest poverty zip codes in the state – the “Big Five” (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, New York City and Yonkers).  Some sort of a combination proficiency-growth model will produce a very different mix of schools; needless to say a potentially hot political topic.

The state plan will be released in the spring, a comment period, final approval in time to submit by the July deadline.

The second part of the plan is the “wide discretion” section – what to do to raise achievement levels in the schools.  The September 28th edition of Education Week takes an in depth look at the options available to states (Check out here)  For example, a school district in Indiana has a “transformation zone;” the California Department of Education spun off California Collaboration for Educational Excellence, with a budget of $24 million to assist low performing schools and districts. A number of organizations, for example Mass Insight and the Johns Hopkins Talent Development Model have had considerable success in school turnaround endeavors.

While the state has wide latitude these efforts must be “evidence-based,”

ESSA lays out three levels of evidence that states can choose to apply to prove an intervention works:

  • “Strong evidence” includes at least one well-designed and implemented experimental study, meaning a randomized controlled trial.
  • “Moderate evidence” includes at least one well-designed and implemented quasi-experimental study. For example, a program evaluation could use a regression-discontinuity analysis, in which researchers might look at differences in outcomes for students who scored a point above and below the entrance cutoff score for a particular program or intervention.
  • “Promising evidence” includes at least one well-designed and implemented correlational study that controls for selection bias, the potential differences between the types of students who choose to participate in a particular program and those who don’t.

In the “strong evidence” category there aren’t too many choices for elementary schools; Success for All and Reading Recovery are two that do meet the requirements, they are expensive, and, highly structured.

“This is a sea change from the highly prescriptive approach to school improvement [under the No Child Left Behind Act] to what can seem like a bit of a Wild West structure under ESSA,” said Mike Magee, the chief executive officer of Chiefs for Change, which has created an ESSA working group of 15 experimentally minded state education leaders. “We have potentially unprecedented flexibility in how states address school improvement—but that’s just another factor in how high the stakes are.”

Another cluster of states are working with Linda Darling-Hammond and others have employed companies that specialize in these efforts, for example 2Revolutions, that calls themselves an education design lab. To the best of my knowledge New York State, for now, is going it alone.

Of course there is an “event” on November 7th that may influence education policy; a new president, a new Secretary of Education, and, perhaps, a new Congress. ESSA will not evaporate, it took fourteen years to change NCLB under two presidents from different parties, and, I believe we will have to wait and see how the law plays out.

Bottom line: a more interesting mix of “five percent” schools and a variety, a wide variety of approaches to school improvement and the impact of the new law on teachers and schools a year or two years away.

Race: Does the Race of a Teacher Impact Student Performance? Does the Race of a School Leader Impact Teacher Effectiveness?

(Five years ago I wrote a blog musing on the impact of the race of a teacher/school leader on student performance. New York City, New York State and advocates nationally are called for increases in numbers of black teachers, especially black males. Schools of education are including “white privilege,” “culturally relevant pedagogy” and “stereotype threat” into course curriculum.  I have reposted an updated version of the original post)

 A federal court judge in a scathing decision ordered the New York Fire Department (FDNY) to change their hiring practices to integrate the work force. Forty years ago the Court established a “disparate impact test” in the Griggs v Duke Power Co. decision,

“What is required by Congress is the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment when the barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of racial or other impermissible classification.”

Since race has no impact on the effectiveness of a firefighter management must institute hiring practices that do not discriminate against protected groups.

Race is a highly sensitive issue:  the subtext of every conversation is race, gender and class. We shy away from discussing race, we fear stepping on toes, being called a “racist,” (or a sexist, or promoting class warfare); ideally we should be engaging in the difficult conversations.

In a graduate education class I was teaching a student expressed, “All whites are racists; the question is how they respond to their racism.” Some were offended, others agreed while many were confused. Observing the students as student teachers was enlightening: a few tried to “relate” by using what they assumed was ghetto language, others were aloof and simply taught the subject matter, a few, very few, managed to gain the respect and engagement of the students.

I know black male teachers who have changed the lives of generations of black students and have met black teachers who reviled their students. One of my black students occasionally references  on Facebook what he learned in my class twenty-five years ago.

What does research say about the impact of the race of the teacher on student achievement?

The education hierarchy is data-obsessed; we collect seemingly infinite bits of data and base every meaningful decision on that data: the granting of tenure, the closing of schools, annual teacher ratings, etc.

The bureaucracy has not collected data relating student achievement to the race of the teacher. In fact there is surprisingly little research in this area.

Dee S. Thomas of Swarthmore College, in a much quoted article  writes,

“… we actually know very little about how differences between a teacher’s race and those of her students affect the learning environment. This study makes use of data from a randomized field trial conducted in Tennessee to produce higher-quality information on this controversial subject than has been available previously.”

“The results are troubling. Black students learn more from black teachers and white students from white teachers, suggesting that the racial dynamics within classrooms may contribute to the persistent racial gap in student performance, at least in Tennessee.”

Thomas goes on to warn us, “… the most important caveat is that this study tells us little about why the racial match between students and teachers seems to matter.”

So, the race of the teacher seems to matter, although we don’t know why. It could be the training of the teacher, it could be the method of assigning students to classes, or we could look at the work of Claude Steele.

In an iconic 1992 article Steele raises the issue of stigma,

“I have long suspected a particular culprit—a culprit that can undermine black achievement as effectively as a lock on a schoolhouse door. The culprit I see is stigma, the endemic devaluation many blacks face in our society and schools.

This status is its own condition of life, different from class, money, culture. It is capable, in the words of the late sociologist Erving Goffman, of ‘breaking the claim’ that one’s human attributes have on people. I believe that its connection to school achievement among black Americans has been vastly underappreciated.”

We may speculate on the impact of the race match of students and teachers; data is interesting, troubling, but does not allow us to draw statistically significant conclusions.

What is the impact of the race of the school leader on teachers?

A just released study  from the University of Missouri is enlightening,

“Teachers are substantially more likely to stay in schools run by a principal of the same race …. Teachers who share the same race as their principal … report higher job satisfaction, particularly in schools with African-American principals.”

“This association may be driven by differences in how such schools are managed, given that teachers who share the same race as their principal report higher levels of administrative support and more recognition than other teachers report.”

* White teachers with white principals received more money in supplemental salaries, such as stipends for coaching or sponsoring clubs, than African-American teachers with white principals.

* In schools with African-American principals, the supplemental salary rates were roughly the same.

* African-American teachers reported much higher rates of intangible benefits, such as administrative support and encouragement, classroom autonomy and recognition for good job performance, when they worked for an African-American principal. The rates were roughly the same for all teachers under white principals.

* The data shows race plays a significant role in the principal-teacher relationship, “It appears that African-American teachers generally have a more positive experience when the principal is of the same race.”

Keiser (the primary researcher) says that previous research has shown that minority teachers improve the educational experience of minority students. Because of this, Keiser believes that her study shows the importance for maintaining the diversity of principals within schools as well.

“Our results illustrate that an important factor in maintaining the racial diversity of teachers is the diversity of the principals that supervise these teachers.  We hope these findings could provide justification for policymakers to undertake targeted at increasing the flow of minority teachers into the principal pipeline.”

Over the Bloomberg-Klein years the percent of minority teachers in New York declined due to the reliance on Teacher for America whose teachers are predominantly white. Principals are selected either through the Principals’ Academy, the Aspiring Principals programs, or, in some instances are promoted from assistant principal positions. The NYC Department has a “principal exam” which moves candidates into the principal selection pool.

Observationally very few of the Academy or Aspiring Principals are Afro-American males.

Does it matter?

Should the Department make special efforts to include minority candidates in the candidate pool? Should they have an informal “Rooney Rule“?

We must not shy away from difficult questions; an ostrich-like “head in the sand” reliance on data is foolish and not productive. We have to address difficult, troubling and politically sensitive issues. Yes, I have worked with highly effective white superintendents and principals in 100% Afro-American districts and schools and totally ineffective Afro-American principals in 100% Afro-American schools.  I can’t remember an Afro-American principal in a predominantly white school.

We live in a “Closing the Achievement Gap” education world. Schools, school leaders and teachers are “measured” by the extent to which the school is “proficient,” and “proficiency” is defined by scores on standardized tests.

Poverty, class, race, funding, ethnicity, school leaders and teachers all enter the equation. We cannot throw up our hands and blame any of the above.  Too many of us in today’s environment are in the “blame game.” The self-styled education reformers blame teachers, teachers may blame poverty, advocates blame funding inadequacies, and issues of race and class hover unresolved.

We live an increasingly diverse world, we are moving toward a “majority minority” nation. Diversity is a complex term. The New York City school system is only fifteen percent white and the overwhelming majority of whites live in white enclaves (Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Riverdale, etc.)  The other eighty-five percent are Afro-American, both American and Caribbean, Asian from China, Korea and other nations and Hispanics from over a dozen nations; all with distinct cultural mores and antagonisms towards other ethnicities. Add the rapidly increasing numbers of inter-racial marriages and recognize that New York City, and many other cities across the nation are both melting pots, cauldrons of ethnicities, some merging, others bubbling. Our teachers and school leaders should reflect the world around them; our diverse student body deserves a diverse teaching corp.

Race alone will not impact student achievement.

In fact in a recent study Harvard professor Tom Kane writes the single most effective intervention, an intervention that far exceeds the impact of a novice versus an experienced teacher are textbooks aligned to curriculum and standards.  (Watch a video of a symposium hosted by David Steiner here and listen to my snarky question at about the 1:08 mark).

The Coleman Report at 50: Was Coleman “Right,” Have We Made Progress? What Have We Learned?

Fifty years after the release of the Coleman Report Johns Hopkins University commissioned fourteen scholars to examine the findings of the report and convened a conference to discuss the research papers. The papers can be read on the Russell Sage Foundation website.

Ten years after the 1954 Board v Board of Education Supreme Court decision called for the end of school segregation “with all deliberate speed,” the pace of desegregation was minimal; however, less than a year after the assassination of JFK President Johnson signed an iconic piece of legislation: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Under Title 1 of the law federal dollars would flow to high poverty schools; while the pace of school desegregation might be slow at least resources would assist schools in repairing the damage of segregation. The law also required a study to emphasize the “lack of availability of equal educational access.” The law stated,

The Commissioner [of Education] shall conduct a survey and make a report to the President and the Congress, within two years of the enactment, concerning the lack of availability of equal educational opportunity for individuals by reason of race, color, religion, or national origin in public institutions at all levels in the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia.

James Coleman, a professor at Johns Hopkins University was commissioned to “conduct a survey and make a report to the President.”

The report concluded that school resource disparities revolving around race distinctively were not large … differences by race within the same geographic space generally were small, too small to account for what today we call the black-white achievement gap.

The report was not what Congress expected and it was released on the 4th of July in 1966, clearly hoping the report would not receive media scrutiny. The findings of the report were “truly groundbreaking … both surprising and, for many, disappointing.”

The key findings:

  1. differences across schools in average achievement levels were small compared to differences in achievement levels within schools;
  2. the differences in achievement levels detected did not align appreciably with differences in school resources other than the socioeconomic makeup of the student body; and
  3. family background factors afforded a much more powerful accounting of achievement differences than did any and all characteristics of the schools that children attended

Read the introductory paper here

Sean Reardon, from Stanford University, looks at the findings of the 1966 report and data today: do the findings hold up to scrutiny?

Rather depressingly Reardon finds “… clear evidence that one aspect of segregation in particular—the disparity in average school poverty rates between white and black students’ schools—is consistently the single most powerful correlate of achievement gaps.”

“This implies that high-poverty schools are, on average, much less effective than lower-poverty schools and suggests that strategies that reduce the differential exposure of black, Hispanic, and white students to poor schoolmates may lead to meaningful reductions in academic achievement gaps”

. “Coleman wrote, ‘the higher achievement of all racial and ethnic groups in schools with greater proportions of white students is largely, perhaps wholly, related to effects associated with the student body’s educational background and aspirations’. In other words, the negative association of segregation with academic achievement disparities appears to have been largely driven by the differences in the socioeconomic composition of the schools where black and white students were enrolled.”

“This study is not new in identifying a strong association between racial segregation and academic achievement gaps. It does, however, provide a much sharper description of the features of segregation patterns that are most strongly predictive of academic achievement gaps. The evidence here very clearly shows that racial differences in exposure to poor schoolmates are linked to achievement gaps. Black and Hispanic students’ test scores, relative to whites’, are much lower when black and Hispanic students attend schools with more poor schoolmates. Reducing school segregation—in particular, reducing racial disparities in exposure to poor schoolmates—may therefore be an effective means of improving the equality of students’ access to high-quality educational opportunities.”

Read the full Reardon paper here

The Reardon paper and the others clearly tell us that the focus on testing driven accountability, perhaps a planned cynical turn away from school integration strategies have been failures. No Child Left Behind (2002) and the Obama-Duncan Race to the Top (2010) assume that transparent testing with harsh sanctions to low performing schools, the encouragement of quasi-public charter schools and the use of dense algorithms to assess teacher performance can end the racial achievement gap. They have not only been a colossal failure, they have turned us away from the core problem – schools segregated socio-economically and racially result in significant academic achievement gaps.

While improving the quality of classroom teaching and school leadership, selecting appropriate high quality curriculum, effective professional development and collaborative school climates are all essential components the Coleman Report and the papers released at the conference all agree – school integration is the single most effective road to reducing/eliminating the academic achievement gap.

The Coleman Report did result in school integration efforts immediately after the release of the report and there were successes, largely in the South. Over the last twenty years the efforts have faded away. The UCLA Civil Rights Project  emphasizes the increase in segregated schools, especially in the Northeast, and, points to New York as the most segregated city. An example: the PS 191 – PS 199 battle on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, probably the most liberal enclave in the nation. PS 191 is an almost all white, high achieving, overcrowded school, PS 199 is an all minority, low achieving, underutilized school a few blocks away. A plan to change the zoning boundaries and move white students to the black school have been met with enormous resistance from the white parents and elected officials.  In other parts of the city and in other cities “controlled choice” have shown incremental progress, (Read about “controlled choice” here)

All the papers are available on the Russell Sage website and the links are available below. I spent an intellectually stimulating and thoughtful day in Baltimore (and the crab cakes were excellent). The conference was recorded and I will reference the link when available. I am an inveterate “question asker,” and I took full advantage of the opportunity. I believe the presenters agreed that the new Every Student Succeeds Act gives states an opportunity to move in a different direction. The law requires that states construct accountability systems and states will have wide latitude, and, hopefully will move away from the NCLB rigid, punitive system. Moving towards greater school integration; however, is an enormous lift,

Take a look at the papers below, contact the authors: use to debate/discuss in your classrooms, for the next year or so a window for change will be open, let’s not let it close without significant changes.


  The Coleman Report and Educational Inequality Fifty Years Later

2(5), pp. i–iii


The Coleman Report at Fifty: Its Legacy and Implications for Future Research on Equality of Opportunity

Karl AlexanderStephen L. Morgan

2(5), pp. 1–16

  1. The Legacy of EEO and Current Patterns of Educational Inequality
Is It Family or School? Getting the Question Right

Karl Alexander

2(5), pp. 18–33


School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps

Sean F. Reardon

2(5), pp. 34–57


Racial and Ethnic Gaps in Postsecondary Aspirations and Enrollment

Barbara SchneiderGuan Saw

2(5), pp. 58–82


Still No Effect of Resources, Even in the New Gilded Age?

Stephen L. MorganSol Bee Jung

2(5), pp. 83–116


First- and Second-Order Methodological Developments from the Coleman Report

Samuel R. Lucas

2(5), pp. 117–140

  1. Looking to the Future
Educational Equality Is a Multifaceted Issue: Why We Must Understand the School’s Sociocultural Context for Student Achievement

Prudence L. Carter

2(5), pp. 142–163


What If Coleman Had Known About Stereotype Threat? How Social-Psychological Theory Can Help Mitigate Educational Inequality

Geoffrey D. BormanJaymes Pyne

2(5), pp. 164–185


A New Framework for Understanding Parental Involvement: Setting the Stage for Academic Success

Angel L. HarrisKeith Robinson

2(5), pp. 186–201


Necessary but Not Sufficient: The Role of Policy for Advancing Programs of School, Family, and Community Partnerships

Joyce L. EpsteinSteven B. Sheldon

2(5), pp. 202–219


Accountability, Inequality, and Achievement: The Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on Multiple Measures of Student Learning

Jennifer L. JenningsDouglas Lee Lauen

2(5), pp. 220–241


Can Technology Help Promote Equality of Educational Opportunities?

Brian JacobDan BergerCassandra HartSusanna Loeb

2(5), pp. 242–271


Connecting Research and Policy to Reduce Inequality

Ruth N. López Turley

2(5), pp. 272–285