Ridding Schools of the Bloomberg/Klein Toxicity: Ending the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool in New York City is Long Overdue

The 74 is a national online education website co-founded by Campbell Brown, a former news anchor and virulent enemy of teacher unions, supporter of charter schools and Betsy; it is an advocacy website masquerading as a an informational site.

I was not surprised when a post by Dan Weisberg, former Joel Klein soldier popped up on the 74 site.  Weisberg currently leads TNTP, a not-for-profit that has consistently attacked teacher tenure and teacher assessment. The post, “Paying Teachers Not to Teach is Absurd – but Reviving NYC’s Dance of the Lemons Hurts Kids,” sounds like one of the endless press releases from the Bloomberg-Klein machine. Klein, an attorney, surrounded himself with attorneys, and we know what Shakespeare said about lawyers . Klein and Weisberg and company portrayed themselves as “disrupters,” changing the system by breaking down and rebuilding  from scratch, by creating chaos and building a new system from the ground up. After a dozen years of disruptive change the administration succeeded in disruption and failed to ensure positive change. The whirlwind of policy change after policy change alienated principals and teachers and confused the public.

On the eve of the 2013 mayoral election Sol Stern, in a City Journal essay offering advice to the new mayor wrote,

The public, for its part, remains dissatisfied with Gotham’s schools, according to a poll of city voters commissioned by the Manhattan Institute and conducted earlier this year by Zogby Analytics ….  New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

A little background: for decades a few hundred teachers were excessed at the end of a school year, some schools had reduced registers, other schools had increasing registers. The excess teachers were placed in schools with vacancies, The contract Excessing Rules provided an orderly transition since the first contracts in the early sixties.

Another section of the contract provided for Seniority Transfers, half of all vacancies, vacancies were defined as open positions due to retirement or resignation, not leaves of absence, and posted in the Spring, In the early nineties a school approached the union with a plan, exempt the school from seniority transfers and a school committee made up of a majority of teachers would select new hires. The union agreed and after a few years the process was embedded in the contract. By the Bloomberg ascension 60% of schools had opted for what became known as the School-Based Option Staffing and Transfer Plan.

In the article referenced above Weisberg, with obvious pride, reports that he led the part of the negotiations that eliminated seniority transfers and established the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool.

The union was pushing for the SBO Staffing/Transfer Plan to replace the seniority transfer plan – it was easy to agree to the Open Market employment system – any teacher could move to any school with the approval of the receiving school; basically all teachers became “free agents” at the end of every school year. Thousands upon thousands of teachers change school every year, and, the movement is commonly from high poverty, lower achieving schools to higher achieving schools.

The evidence is clear, teacher mobility damages high poverty, low-achieving schools, In “Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility, Li Feng and Tim Sass (February, 2011) conclude,

The most effective teachers who transfer tend to go to schools whose faculties are in the top quartile of teacher quality. Teacher mobility exacerbates differences in teacher quality across schools.

Numerous studies come to the same conclusion,

Hamilton Langford and others, “Explaining the Short Career of High-Achieving Teachers in Schools with Low-Performing Students,” (January, 2004),

Low achieving students often are taught by the least qualified teachers, these disparities begin when teachers take their first jobs and in urban areas they are worsened by teacher subsequent decisions to transfer and quit. Such quits and transfers increase disparities …  more qualified teachers are substantially more likely to leave schools having the lowest achieving students 

The long established seniority transfer plan required five years of service before a transfer – now annual “free agency,” the “disrupters” harmed the most vulnerable schools.

Weisberg, et. al., also are proud of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, actually an attempt to rid the system is “bad teachers,” or maybe senior teachers, or maybe union activists or maybe simply to show the union and teachers who really was in charge.

The number of U-ratings under Klein/Weisberg escalated dramatically, close to 3% of teacher received unsatisfactory ratings. The appeals were a sham, the Department was judge and jury. Accusations of misconduct, defined as any conduct the principal thought was inappropriate, conduct that in prior years might result in a letter of reprimand now resulted in a trip to the infamous “rubber room.”. Eventually the teacher was dumped into the ATR pool; of the small number of teachers who were brought up on charges the vast percentage were exonerated or paid a fine and were returned to the ATR pool. The aim was to convince the legislature to change the law and require the teachers in the ATR pool for more than six months would be laid off. The union successfully defended seniority layoff rules.

Under the new teacher assessment law, based on principal observation and student growth scores, the number of ineffective ratings shrunk to pre-Bloomberg numbers.

The deBlasio-Farina Department has announced that ATRs would fill vacancies occurring after October 15th, and, if they received effective or highly effective ratings under the matrix teacher evaluation law, would be fully absorbed into schools, ending a toxic policy and saving the school system perhaps $100 million a year.

The “March of the Lemons” referenced by Weisberg should not refer to the teachers, it should refer to the “disrupters.” would soured the school system.

Additionally, the Department should consider:

* Creating an inspectorate, a group of principals who can observe ATRs who principals think are moving towards an ineffective rating. In the pre-Bloomberg days it was commonplace for the superintendent to observe teachers in their last year of probation.

* Open Market transfers require five years of service in a school to be eligible for transfer, not the current annual “free agency.”

* Renewal and Focus/Priority schools should be given a window prior to all other schools to hire staff – perhaps six or eight weeks before all other schools could commence hiring.

Each and every year the New York City school system has to hire 3-4,000 new teachers due to teacher attrition – about 40% of teachers leave within five years, and, in the neediest schools the percentage is far higher.

Susan Moore Johnson, at the Next Generation of Teachers project at Harvard published research findings, “Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools, (March , 2004), as well as continuing their research into the issue.

Unfortunately little of the research has translated into policies within school districts and schools.

Good riddance to the ATR pool, and, lets help teachers who need assistance and support our new teachers.

Healing and supporting makes a lot more sense than disrupting and angering.

Letter to SUNY Charter Institute: Don’t Denigrate the Teaching Profession

Charter Schools Institute
State University of New York
41 State Street, Suite 700
Albany, NY 12207

TO: Committee Chair: Joseph W. Belluck

RE: Memorandum in Opposition to Regulations Governing the Certification of Teachers in SUNY Authorized Charter Schools (Namely, Subchapter E – Regulations of the Board of Trustees Charter School Committee – Section 700. 1-7)

I urge the members of the Charter School Committee to withdraw the ill-conceived regulations governing the certification of SUNY charter school teachers.

New York State has been among the leaders across the nation in the licensing of the professions. The Office of the Professions  licenses almost a million professionals in the state. From acupuncturists, dentists, doctors, nurses to pharmacists, psychologists and veterinarians – over 60 professions fall under the Office of the Professions (See total list here), an arm of the New York State Department of Education. The Office works with national associations to assure that all licensed professionals meet the highest standards of their profession (See list of national associations here).

Currently prospective teachers in New York State must complete an approved course of study, approved by the State Education Department, pass three examinations, and serve a four year probationary period. In “shortage areas” the state provides a number of alternative pathways. Additionally, college programs must pass scrutiny by CAEP (Council on the Accreditation of Education Programs); the state also “tracks” graduates and reports on teacher effectiveness by college program. If grades on certification examinations are below standard or student performance of program graduates is inadequate the programs are in jeopardy.

The State Education Department licensure/certification requirements make every attempt to assure that new teachers are well prepared before they step foot into a classroom as teachers.

The supporters of the proposal argue that it is difficult to find certified teachers and  exempting teachers from the long established teacher certification rules is required.

A weak argument.

There are a host of professions in which licensed professionals are in short supply, for example, nurses, doctors and dentists in rural areas, should we reduce requirements for these professions?

Of course not.

Should we allow prospective attorneys to skip law school and the bar exams and simply serve as an intern into a law office for 100 hours?   Are teachers less important than attorneys?

Charter schools face a serious staffing problem – the problem is caused by extremely high rates of teacher attrition. The turnover rate is troubling, it takes three to five years for a teacher to fully learn their job – if teachers are leaving after one or two years students are constantly faced with new and inexperienced teachers.

Why are teachers leaving charter schools?

I suggest the Charter School Institute withdraw the resolution referenced supra  and instead require charter schools to develop teacher retention plans with retention targets, and, reaching or surpassing the targets become part of the charter reauthorization process.

Teacher certification is not limited to colleges, the state has approved other institutions to certify teachers – the Museum of Natural History provides a teacher certification program in Earth Science, a shortage area subject. Teacher residency programs (See I-Start here) allows not-for-profits to partner with school districts and colleges to provide intensive teacher preparation programs approved by the State Education Department.

All of the alternative pathways to teaching appropriately fall under the State Education Department.

The proposed regulation which removes the state from the process denigrates teaching as a profession and only encourages the canard that anyone can teach.

Mr. Belluck I am sure that you want(ed) the best possible teachers for your children and/or grandchild. The current teacher certification procedures sets both high standards for teacher training institutions and for prospective teachers. Your proposed regulations simply undermine decades of efforts to raise standards for teachers and outcomes for students.

I am certain that Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Elia are more than willing to work with the Institute to explore and develop plans to reduce teacher attrition and explore alternative certification pathways in shortage certification areas.

 

Peter Goodman

Ed in the Apple
Blogging on the Intersection of Education and Politics

Betsy, Eva, Andrew: The Beginning of the Demise of Teacher Certification or A Cuomo Political Strategy?

Within days of the end of the special session of the state legislature the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a new regulation – teachers in SUNY authorized charter schools are no longer required to be certified by the State Department of Education – charter school networks can now self-certify teachers: no college courses, no student teaching, no pre-service tests.  Politico writes,

New York City’s charter school sector appears to have secured a significant victory in the 11th hour of the Legislative session Wednesday night, with a set of regulations that will make it much easier for large charter networks to hire more uncertified teachers.

All other teachers must complete a program approved by the state education department as well as meet CAEP Standards (Council on the Accreditation Of Education Programs) and pass three separate tests: the edTPA (a self-assessment developed by Stanford), Educating All Students (multiple choice and essay test emphasizing teaching children with disabilities and English language learners) and a Content Specialty Test, also multiple choice and essay testing knowledge and literacy within their area of expertise. SUNY teachers would not have to meet ANY of these requirements.

Read new SUNY charter school teacher requirements here.

Read requirements for all other charter school teachers here.

Read requirements for public school teachers here.in

The current charter school law does allow charter schools leeway in the employment of non-certified teachers,

 [uncertified teachers]shall not in total comprise more than  the sum of: (A) thirty per centum of the teaching  staff  of  a  charter  school,  or  five teachers, whichever is less; plus (B) five teachers of  mathematics,  science,  computer  science,  technology,  or  career  and  technical  education;  plus  (C)  five  additional  teachers

The new SUNY regulations appear to be in conflict with the charter school law.

There is general agreement the teacher is the key to student achievement. A massive Chetty et. al., project reports,

students assigned to high-Value Added teachers are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, and are less likely to have children as teenagers. Replacing a teacher whose Value Added is in the bottom 5% with an average teacher would increase the present value of students’ lifetime income by approximately $250,000 per classroom.

Teachers are at the heart of improving student outcomes.

In comparison with high achieving nations, teachers in the United States commonly come from the lower half of colleges academically as measured by standing in class or scores on the SAT exam. Teachers in Finland, for example, come from the top of their class. The reasons are complex; in many states teachers are poorly paid, low social status, seemingly constant external attacks on the teaching profession; test prep-based instruction are all part of the package that discourages students from choosing teaching as a profession.

Pasi Sahlberg, a frequent writer on Finnish education relates,

Finnish primary school teacher education programmes that lead to an advanced, research-based degree are so popular among young Finns that only one in 10 applicants is accepted each year. Those lucky students then have to study for five to six years before they are allowed to teach a class of their own.

We know that teachers matter, in fact, teachers are the at the core of any educational program, we know that high achieving nations have highly selective teacher preparation programs and we know that the teaching force in the United States tends to be “average.”

Ronald Ferguson, from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in an excellent study examines the relationship between scores on preservice teacher exams and student scores on state reading and math tests and concludes,

my judgment is that a positive causal relationship between students’ and teachers’ scores should be the working assumption among policy makers.

Read the entire paper, “Certification Test Scores, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement” here.

The New York Post, in an editorial jumps on board, praising the actions of the SUNY trustees,

This would let schools hire scientists, engineers and other qualified professionals without forcing them to waste time earning education degrees or mastering the arcana essential to passing the state test.

The editorial board ignores, or is unaware, that the current charter school law (see above) allows charter schools to employ uncertified staff.

If the research is overwhelming and charter schools already operate under relaxed certification requirements why is the new regulation necessary?

Let’s begin with Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with a Swiftian view of mankind (“A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”)  is deeply religious and believes her family is among the “chosen,” a perverted Calvinist world view who probably has a copy of The Fountainhead  at her bedside. For DeVos the battle for souls is the battle of “collectivism,” versus “individual responsibility.”  Public education, “collectivist” versus an unregulated educational marketplace, aka,”individual responsibility;” success or failure of schools decided by the whims of the marketplace. The idea of teacher certification would be abhorrent to DeVos.

For Eva Moskowitz, the architect of the plan, the regulations are an exercise in power. Eva was idolized by former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein – see the Joel-Eva e-correspondence here.

Under the de Blasio mayoralty Eva has had to seek a new patron, and, she has successfully bewitched our governor, Andrew Cuomo.  In exchange for a two year extension in mayoral control in New York City, a year beyond the 2018 gubernatorial election the governor and the mayor agreed to increase the number of New York City charter school slots by adding in the numbers from closed charter schools, to process charter school space requests more quickly and the drastic change to allowing SUNY charter schools to circumvent teacher certification regulations. Cuomo continues to walk the thin line between Republican and Democrat and independent. Up to now he has successfully navigated the dangerous waters, the modern day Scylla and Charybdis.  On one hand the recent state education budget contained the largest increase in state funding that we ever seen, as well as burying the repulsive student test score-based teacher evaluation plan. On the other hand currying favor with charter crowd, at arm’s length. The SUNY charter school regulations are not part of the law; however, the SUNY Board of Trustees are Cuomo appointees. A one-time gift to buy off the charter school dollars in the 2018 gubernatorial election, or, will he seek to expand the regulations to all teacher candidates in the state?  Is “going to war” with the largest union in the state his strategy or is he carefully setting the stage by drying up charter dollars for his opponent?  And, don’t forget, in the cavalry charge for the 2020 run Andrew will be in the pack.

Interestingly, in the waning days of the legislative sessions Senator Brad Holyman (D-NYC) introduced the Charter School Accountability and Transparency Act, and, while the bill never moved will it be revived next year and will it gain traction, especially with the governor? The SUNY charters, and Eva, got their “we can hire anyone” regulations passed by the governor’s appointees, will the governor extract a price from Eva?

 Senate Bill S.6578, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman will provide enhanced transparency and accountability for New York taxpayers by implementing regulations for charter schools on enrollment targets, discipline policies, compensation plans for executive and financial backers, as well as other operations. Some of highlights of this legislation include proposals to:

  • Require charter schools connected with non-profits to specify the extent of the company’s participation in the management and operation of the school;
  • Require charter schools to disclose executive compensations as well as all loans or gifts received over one thousand dollars;
  • Limit the charter executives’ salaries to $199,000 annually, with limited exceptions;
  • Require charter schools to disclose regular financial statements outlining the assets of the school and, if applicable, any of its affiliated corporate/business entities, valued over one million dollars;
  • Require charter schools that request co-location to demonstrate that the school does not have the financial capacity to procure adequate facilities. Charters with assets that are valued at over one million dollars would be ineligible to be offered co-located or private space;
  • Limit the time a charter school may be offered private space at no cost to three years and limit rental aid payments to six years; and
  • Require charter schools to admit and retain an equal or greater enrollment of ELLs, students with disabilities, and free lunch recipients compared to the district’s public school enrollment.

Politics is the art of compromise: a political maxim: never say never (almost never), and, there is always the next election, burning bridges is not a strategy. Our governor is an enigmatic complicated politician, easy to dislike, and, the most powerful politician in the state. In my view the endgame is the path that leads to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For those of you who say “never” think back a year.

UPDATE: You can submit comments to the SUNY Charter Institute for the next 45 days at charters@suny.edu

Polyamory in New York City Public Schools (And Proud of It!!!)

It’s an angry world: Trump tweets, comedians ridicule, the Congress snarls, the nation appears incredibly divided by gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, and the one acceptable reason, sports team preferences. The motto of the press, “if it bleeds it leads,” and even the noble New York Times, “All the news that fits, we print.”

The arena of education is no different: for-profit, online charter schools, vouchers, the seemingly never-ending attacks on public schools and teachers, and, of course, teacher unions. The billionaires get richer and use their wealth to influence school board elections and elect anti-public school legislators.

That is: except in New York City!

A mayor who has actually placed education at the top of his agenda – not only in words but in deeds. He has pumped far more dollars into the school system than any predecessor: pre-kindergarten for every four year old in the city, and, in September, pre-school for three year olds in the two poorest districts. Instead of closing struggling schools, the ninety or so Renewal Schools, the mayor has injected significant funding, and merged instead of closed a number of the lowest performing schools. Yes, there are no immediate signs of improvement; however, it takes years to measure outputs in schools.

Attack after attack, led by the New York Post and charter school supporters has been trashed by a recent study. In spite of a dozen years of unceasing criticism by Bloomberg/Klein and so-called reformers, our public schools have done a superb job,

The most comprehensive study of college graduates yet conducted, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and financial-aid records … the study tracked students from nearly every college in the country (including those who failed to graduate), measuring their earnings years after they left campus …

To take just one encouraging statistic: At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.

Read entire study here.

Students, almost all graduates from public high schools before  the massive school closings by the Bloomberg/Klein administration were at the top of the nation in upward mobility. Public schools and public colleges changes lives. Yes, we can gloat!

For twenty years mayors, Giuliani and Bloomberg, were at war with fellow New Yorkers. Hundreds of thousands of stop-and frisk interventions, almost all New Yorkers of color,  arresting people for smoking joints in public, incarcerating people who couldn’t make bail for minor offenses; de Blasio was reviled when he sharply reduced stop and frisk as well as summons instead of arrests for minor offenses, and, surprise – surprise,  crime continued to spiral downwards. Prison and jail populations declined; the naysayers who predicted the worst, seemed disappointed.

School suspensions are also sharply down without an discernable increase in school conduct (See an opposing opinion here).

We may not agree with de Blasio all the time; however, he has only token opposition in the September primary and his Republican November opponent appears to be a virtually unknown Assembly member who is an avid Trump supporter.

We love Bill.

Carmen Farina, the Chancellor, the leader of the school system has been a teacher, principal and superintendent in New York City. We feel comfortable with Carmen. She returned the city to a local superintendent system with geographic support centers and she interacts with teachers on an almost daily basis. Again, we may not agree on this policy or that policy; however, when we compare her to Joel Klein, a self-described “disrupter” or Dennis Walcott, sadly, a Klein clone and place-keeper, she shines.

Over a hundred PROSE schools, schools encouraged to “bend the rules,” either Department rules or contract clauses, to try another approach. Principal/teacher collaboration are a crucial component of the Farina view of schooling.

We love Carmen.

And loving each other is perhaps the only love we’ll get ….

Dismal clouds hover on the horizon: drastic budget cuts, a Secretary of Education committed to charter schools and vouchers in lieu of public schools, a “coup” that placed another arch conservative on the Supreme Court, a governor leaning towards charter schools, our undocumented students faced with being yanked from their homes, health plans in jeopardy and the possibility of a state constitutional convention that could decimate public employees pensions. We can hear the thunder rumbling.

I know folks will say, “Don’t be silly. both de Blasio and Farina are far, far  from loveable.” Sadly, I am reminded of how progressives self-destructed in November. Too many Bernie supporters stayed on the sidelines or decided to cast a protest vote for Jill Stein. Maybe Comey colluded with the Republicans to bring down Hillary and maybe Hillary could have run a better campaign.

We forgot: If we don’t hang together we will definitely hang separately.

I’ve been on the front lines of politics all my adult life, I argued, advocated and organized for my candidate, and, if the “other guy or gal” won the primary or received the nomination I supported them.

As the clouds swirl and the thunder rumbles we should all hug Bill and Carmen

Review: Cutting School – Privatization, Segregation and the End of Public Education by Noliwe Rooks

An important book …
                             CUTTING SCHOOL by Noliwe M. Rooks

CUTTING SCHOOL

Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

KIRKUS REVIEW

An exploration of how minority and poor children continue to be the victims of pernicious educational reforms.

Weighing in on the charged topic of public education, Rooks (American Studies/Cornell Univ.;White Money/Black Power: The Surprising History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education, 2006, etc.) mounts a blistering and persuasive argument against school reforms that she sees as detrimental to disadvantaged students.

Charter schools and their management organizations, vouchers, virtual schools, and “an alternatively certified, non-unionized teaching force” are basically capitalist ventures that enforce segregation. She calls the reform efforts “segrenomics”: business strategies that prey on powerless communities and do not account for the necessary voices of parents, teachers, or students.

Rooks is equally critical of the past four presidents, whose proposals, despite their optimistic titles, failed to alleviate dysfunction. She traces the movement for privatization to the 1990s, when the Edison Project, an independent for-profit chain of schools, persuaded state and city governments that its schools could “break the mold of traditional education and outperform public schools.” Reaping tax dollars and corporate investment, the Edison Project never achieved “the promised profits or test score gains.” Yet despite its failure, it spawned a growing charter school industry, most recently touted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Rooks opposes vouchers, an idea promoted by economist Milton Friedman, “who wanted to dismantle public education.” Indeed, in communities that instituted vouchers, white families often used them to keep their children in predominantly white schools, and black schools deteriorated. The quest to educate disadvantaged students as cheaply as possible has led to an increased focus on virtual schools, which minimize the costs of buildings, teachers, and staff. In Philadelphia, students in more than a dozen cyberschools failed state achievement tests. Offering a strong counterargument to charter school advocates such as David Osborne, Rooks proposes no easy answers: “our system,” she writes, “will need to be almost completely overhauled and rethought.”

A convincing argument that the only viable, proven school reform strategy is integration, a solution distressingly difficult to achieve.

“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.