Can Education and Social Policy Lift de Blasio to the White House?

When Mayor de Blasio announced his candidacy for the presidency it was greeted with derision and laughter. How could a mayor who was no longer popular in his own city even think of a run for the highest office in the land?

Michelle Goldberg, in the New York Times (“Stop Sneering at Bill de Blasio”) reminded us that de Blasio’s mayoralty has been pretty impressive.

Conventional wisdom holds that de Blasio is a joke, a sanctimonious dork held in widespread contempt by the city he governs. New York’s tabloids despise him. His presidential bid has been greeted with a combination of sneering, eye-rolling and baffled pity.

I’m as confused as everyone else about why de Blasio is running for president. But the mockery greeting his every move obscures what a successful mayor he’s been, particularly for working- and middle-class families.

De Blasio’s election in 2013 was a surprise; he won a four-way primary in which he was a long shot with 40% of the vote, way ahead of the favorite, Billy Thompson, an Afro-American candidate who served two terms as Comptroller.

Under the five years of de Blasio leadership the city continues to thrive. He eliminated “stop and frisk;” a core policy of his predecessors and murder rates continued to tumble. Dollars continue to roll into the city, construction is booming.

The Universal Pre-k initiative is firmly entrenched, over seventy thousand three and four years’ olds attending school daily, unheard of across the country.

He negotiated two contracts with the teachers union after five years without a contract under Bloomberg.

At the NEA Convention in Houston de Blasio acquitted himself well,

De Blasio did not single out O’Rourke or any other Democrat, but said “too many Democrats have been cozy with the charter schools,” offering the argument that they siphon money away from traditional public education. “I hate the privatizers and I want to stop them,” he said.

The decision to run is not made lightly, candidates plot out a strategy: who are “their voters” and how do you motivate them?

For de Blasio: progressive voters, working class voters and Afro-American voters.

After the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, older white voters, the next primary is South Carolina, 61% Afro-American voters. Can de Blasio repeat his popularity among black voters? In a Charleston church the unknown New Yorker received a warm reception.

And when he went into his campaign spiel about the devastating effects of income inequality, and how he believed that he could adapt his successes in New York — universal prekindergarten, guaranteed paid time off and increased access to health care — to the rest of the nation, claps of approval filled the church.

“I don’t think they look out for the people,” D’jaris Sanders, 34, who works in the automotive construction industry, said after the service last weekend. “Like he said,” she added, referring to Mr. de Blasio, “the working people.”

 His battles for diversity in New York City schools and his attacks on the Specialized High School Admissions Test are in the news almost every day.

The February release of the report, “Making the Grade: The Path to Real Integration for NYC Public School Students,” is a carefully crafted pathway that encourages local school community councils, with financial supports, to create plans for their districts without scaring away white parents.

The de Blasio plan to replace the current specialized high school examination (SHSAT) with a Texas type plan, the highest achievers in all middle schools would be admitted, replacing the current test, has not been adopted, although continuously debated. The de Blasio plan requires approval by the state legislature, without success over the last two sessions.

The New York City school leader, the chancellor, is a mayoral appointee, and continues to vigorously support a vague “equity agenda.” All school staff is in the process of participating in anti-bias training.

De Blasio will be on the stage for the second round of debates at the end of the month and future participation will depend on his ability to gain numbers of contributors and polling numbers, at each debate, one a month from September to December, the participation bar will be raised and the field will narrow.

Warning: cynicism alert!

Back in the 1980’s the major issue in the New York State legislature was restoring the death penalty. After a number of tries both houses passed legislation to restore the death penalty and Governor Cuomo (pere) voted to law; finally, both houses overrode the veto and the death penalty was restored in New York State (it was never applied).

A few years later a Republican strategist bemoaned, “It was the dumbest thing we could have done,” it was a great campaign issue.

One could argue that school diversity (notice the term integration is not used) and the replacement for the SHSAT are excellent campaign issues, as well as the chancellor’s equity agendas, meant to resonate with potential de Blasio voters.

I do not think de Blasio will survive as the bar is raised for participation in future debates. His “unpopularity” numbers are far too high and he’s battling two black candidates, Kamila Harris and Cory Booker as well as Joe Biden, for Afro-American voters. A few days ago as “Essence-Fest” de Blasio spoke to a half-filled room.

With each debate the contenders will attack the ‘leader,”as evidenced by the attacks on Biden at the last debate. This time Harris may be the subject of attacks by the other contenders. With five more debates scheduled it is impossible to predict whether a single candidate will emerge or if the process smudges all the candidates.

I don’t think de Blasio will survive; however, his policies are impressive, and, in the turmoil of presidential politics – who knows?

What My Son Taught Me, Conversations About Race and Fatherhood

At the recent presidential debate de Blasio referenced “the talk” with his biracial son. I wrote an article published The Root.com, time to repost

What’s that conversation every father dreads as your son approaches those dangerous teenage years? Sex? No. How to deal with the cops. I’ve never been pulled over while driving in a ”nice” neighborhood; my son was stopped a block from our apartment in Manhattan and asked by the patrolman what he was doing in ”this neighborhood.” I feared for my son’s safety, not in the depth of the hood, but on the ritzier streets of the Big Apple.

As a white man with a foot, maybe a toe, in a black world I began listening with a third ear once my son Drew was born 38 years ago. Those insidious racial asides that somehow I never heard before now resonated.

On the night we met, at a convention in New Orleans, my future wife and I were walking down the street and a local redneck, pretty drunk, started baiting me with racial slurs. I beckoned him closer, started measuring the distance between my toe and his testicles as two very large members of the New Orleans constabulary grabbed him and tossed him into a squad car. As I shared with our son years later, turn the other cheek, up to a point. Sometimes you just gotta teach a lesson.

Forty years ago, when Joan and I married, I crossed an invisible barrier, from that white world where you occasionally have a black co-worker to a world of people of color.

My late wife was one of a handful of black women at an elite Eastern university. She had studied Latin and Greek at wonderful public high school, yet she had to face ignorance term after term. Her saber-like tongue may not have been appreciated by her classmates, but she firmly believed stupidity had to be challenged, a lesson my son Drew learned all too well.

As a black, male athlete, my son often encountered classmates who assumed that he was only in college due to a sports scholarship, and, if he was from Manhattan, that meant Harlem. In the tradition of his mother, he enjoys skewing the fool. Recently, he proudly attended his wife’s induction ceremony into Phi Beta Kappa. A college official asked who he was, Drew pointed to his wife, Sommer, and said, ”I’m the husband of your valedictorian.” The official blurted, ”Oh, I thought you’d be white.” (His wife is black.) Drew shot back, ”Does that mean you’re not going to induct her?” He’s got a sadistic streak. He enjoyed watching her stutter.

Years ago, while we were vacationing at a motel on the west coast of Florida, my 4-year-old son raced into the pool, the only black/biracial person playing in the water. I noticed white mothers pulling their little darling daughters out of the water. I felt like asking for everyone’s attention and assuring them all that my son was not interested in having sex with their daughters (well at least not for a decade or so).

At his mother’s knee, Drew learned about his ancestors’ lives in South Carolina, about the bigotry they faced on a daily basis and the successes they achieved. From his 101-year-old grandmother, a college graduate, he learned why she would never ever return to the South. And at my family reunions, he learned about our cousins who did not flee Germany and instead died in the Holocaust.

While my son straddled both worlds, I found that, by marrying my wife and fathering my son, I’d gained admittance into another world, a world I never knew existed.

I remember walking down the street years ago with my wife. Whenever we passed a black person, they’d invariably nod and greet us. I remember asking Joan,  ”Do all black people know each other?” ”No,” she replied, ”we just have manners.”

Invited to a casserole dinner I dragged out the slow cooker and made a batch of pigs’ feet (recipe follows). The table was filled with tasty tidbits, ham, ribs, baked macaroni, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread—and my pigs’ feet. Our host had the crowd vote to pick the best dish, and, yes, my pigs’ feet won. When Joyce asked who cooked them, the only white guy in the room sheepishly raised his hand. High-fives all around, bear hugs; I was the first ”guy” to win the prestigious ”best casserole” accolade.

Perhaps, unconsciously, we passed along that same cultural fluidity to my son, who is now a school assistant principal, married with a family of his own. One day, the chef at Charlie Trotter in Chicago invites Drew into the kitchen to give him a tour and answer his technical food preparation questions, and, a few days later he’s trash talking on a schoolyard basketball court.

Needless to say, I am very proud of him. I was a high-school teacher who spent three-plus decades teaching and working for the teacher’s union. These days, as a consultant, I meet young, white teachers, spending a few years teaching in the ”ghetto.” The ”ghetto” teaching creds look good on a résumé and, oh, those stories to recount at suburban cocktail parties. They ”friend” their students on Facebook, ”high-five,” and try to become ”buddies” with their students. When I remind them that their job is bring kids up to and beyond academic standards, they sigh, tell me they’re building self-esteem. I tell them self-esteem will come when these inner city kids beat out their kids on the LSAT!

We are hundreds of years removed from the Dark Passage, we are 50 states, yet we are a people divided, by race and geography, by religion and by politics. Many are comfortable in their enclave, fearing the wider world. Some can navigate across the states and among the races and classes, they are the true Americans, and, hopefully the role models for us all. We are not a melting pot, but the ”tanning” of America may make us into a better nation.

Pigs’ Feet Recipe

2-3 pigs’ feet cut in half lengthwise (rinse thoroughly if salted)

Diced small onion

3-4 dried hot peppers

12 peppercorns

1/2 cup or so vinegar

  1. Stand the pigs’ feet in a slow cooker. Add all other ingredients. Cover, on high 4 hours, low for 8 hours.
  2. Drain into a bowl through a strainer. Let cool. Pick out the hundred or so little bones and discard.
  3. Cool in refrigerator. Skim off the coagulated fat.
  4. Reheat and enjoy … with a dash of vinegar and liberal spurts of Frank’s Hot Sauce.

Peter Goodman has taught in a Brooklyn high school, served on his union’s executive board and taught education at the New School University. He now  writes a blog, Ed in the Apple: The Intersection of Education and Politics.

The Democratic Presidential Debate: Why Were Education and Labor Ignored (except for busing)?

As soon as the results of the 2018 congressional elections were in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president began. In the era of Facebook and Twitter elections are never-ending.

There are two elections: the first will be decided on July 16th 2020: the elected delegates to the Democratic National Convention will choose a candidate, the July to November sprint to the November 3rd presidential will be a totally different election. If you don’t win the first  the second one is irrelevant.

The debates will take place almost monthly (July, September, October, November, December) with a declining field of debaters as the rules for participation narrow.

As the candidates on the stage thin, hopefully, the questioning at the debates will become more insightful.

No one will actually vote until February 3rd, the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary, both dominated by older white voters, on to South Carolina, many Afro-American voters and the March 3rd super Tuesday. New York State is April 28th. (Read the primary schedule here)

Every candidate has a carefully scripted campaign.

Elizabeth Warren has focused on detailed specific policies, Bernie on Medicare for All and attacking the capitalist overlords, Biden, “experience counts,” and Booker and Harris, light on policy specifics and heavy on “its time to pass the flame.”

The debates were light on substance, ten candidates each night with one minute to answer a question  Harris counterpunched and “won” the decision, the New Yorker does a good job of assessing her performance and Maureen Dowd, casts doubts on Biden’s ability to defend against Harris and other candidates attacks.

Politics these days is brutal, the smartass quip, the nasty jab, its more entertainment than substance.

The 1st century Roman poet Juvenal was on target,

The idea that people can be pacified by food and entertainment when they should be rallying to their prescribed civic duties isn’t a new one. In fact, the concept was first described in ancient times by the satirical Roman poet Juvenal, who penned the Latin term pane et circuses, which means “bread and circuses.”

 I don’t have a favorite, whoever is polling best against Trump will get my vote. I’m “comfortable” with Biden, Warren’s emphasis on policy is impressive; I’m not a Medicare for All supporter; too many are happy with their current coverage, we should expand the Affordable Care Act and provide coverage for everyone.

Beto and Booker are charter school supporters – they get crossed off my list.

Every week or so I get an e-message asking me “What are the most important issues.” education is never on the list!!

Harris challenged Biden about his position on busing thirty years or so years ago: busing?

Biden did mention increasing Title 1 funding and free community college.

MSNBC asked for questions, I responded,

As president would you continue the Obama/Trump support for charter schools?

 Inner city high poverty schools have struggled for decades, education is a pathway out of poverty, how would you increase academic outcomes for these students?

The current administration has attacked labor unions: how would you strengthen the rights of workers? How would you re-empower unions?

 As the cast of candidates is reduced the moderators will have the opportunity for a more expanded discussion of the issues, maybe my questions.

In the real world of politics presidents have to deal with Congress, and even if you win both houses it’s difficult to pass laws: for example, the Democratic Party is split along regional and philosophical lines. (See Pelosi’s fight with progressives over the budget bill here). Debates are exciting, actually turning policy into laws is challenging.

Elections are about identifying your voters and getting them to the polls.

The February to June primary season moves from a marathon to a sprint, racing from state to state, targeting voters, honing in on specific issues, and, endless fundraising.

The last time there was a contested convention was 1952, by the time I get to cast my ballot on April 28 the democratic candidate may be been selected, or, my vote might actually be the key for a candidate.

Will the losing candidates come together after the presidential candidate is selected and bring along their supporters?

In 2016 Hillary and Bernie battled for months, the antipathy crackled, and, too many Bernie supporters walked away. Would the Hillary supporters have done the same?  Maybe

Angry Bernie voters told me they couldn’t vote for Hillary and would vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

No one has explained to me why Jill Stein was in Moscow in December 2015 having dinner with Putin (Read the article and view the dinner table here)

(Stein’s vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory).

The campaign will be ugly; a throwback to campaigns of yore.

Jefferson used James Callender to personally attack Hamilton and John Adams.

The 1884 Cleveland-Blaine election revolved around attacks claiming Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock,

The Democrats, celebrating Cleveland’s victory, took to mocking the Republican attacks on Cleveland by chanting, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha!”

 Trump will attack, attack, attack, I hope the democrat; whoever he or she is, responds in kind, in this climate there is no civility. The democrats should be just as nasty.

“Bread and circuses” wins “clicks,” twitter followers and the adoration of the multitudes.

 … [The] Romans saw gladiatorial contests not as a form of decadence but as a cure for decadence. And decadence to the Romans had little to do with sexual behavior or lack of a decent work ethic, but a lack of military-style honor and soldierly virtues. To a Roman compassion was a detestable vice, which was considered both decadent and feminine. Watching people and animals slaughtered brutally [in the arena] was seen as a way to keep the civilian population from this ‘weakness’ because they didn’t see combat…

 Our current president sees himself as a Caesar, and, we need a Brutus; of course, metaphorically speaking.

Another School Year Ends: Time for Teachers to Decompress and Use Those Organizational Skills in the World of Politics

Did you hear that “whoosh” sound that swept across the city only a few hours ago?  A weather anomaly?  No, the whoosh was 70,000 teachers breathing out – the end of another school year.

Teaching is a complex and enervating task.

For many of us we are the only stable adult in a child’s life. Households can be chaotic, children can have a variety of caregivers, ask teachers of 3, 4 and 5 years old, they hear the stories and they try and respond.

Each teacher is the author, actor, director and critic of a play with a run of one day. One day our play is a hit, the next day a flop. No matter the quality of the script, the lesson plan, there are no guarantees of success. The teaching process might check all the boxes, the object of the process; the children change from day to day.

When the light bulb goes off we give an internal fist bump, when s/he looks at us blankly we snarl: what did we miss, what am I not doing?

With each year, hopefully, we get better, our toolkit get deeper, we become more competent, we become a better self-critic, we become more reflective.

The external critics are many; the public may scoff, “They have the summers off,” for others teaching is simply babysitting, except if we’re teaching their children.

School leaders may be collaborative partners or egotistical oligarchs, and school district leaders often seem to be in another galaxy.

The chancellor may have anti-bias training at the top of his list, for teachers, help in getting kids to come to school everyday may be the first priority.

We may never know the impact of our efforts.

A plumber, a carpenter, an electrician can flip a switch or turn a knob and know whether their repair was correct.

As teachers, we rarely know, a simple act of kindness can change a student’s life.

A kid in my class was small, bothered with teenage acne, he always sat right next to my desk and was a loner. One day he apologizes for not doing his homework. I gave him a “teacher look,” he said, apologetically, “I’m in a band, our practice ran late.”

“Is the band any good?”

The kid hesitated, I said, “Bring me a cassette”

I gave it to my son who had a friend who was in the music scene.

He had a promoter listen to the cassette; I passed along advice  to the kid, “Pretty good, keep playing at open mikes.”

Years later an adult stops me in the street, “Mr. G, nice to see you.”

It took me a few seconds, the same kid, I asked, “What happened with the band?”

He laughed, “We weren’t that good, I become the sound guy, and I’m a sound technician now, make a good living, I always wanted to thank you for the encouragement.”

An offhand comment can impact a kid’s life.

An alumna of the school in which I taught is writing a history of the school based on the school newspaper that was published every month over many decades.

Three kids she interviewed vividly remembered an assignment from my class about thirty years ago.

In a Sociology class we constructed a statistically correct survey of student attitudes and opinions and presented it to the principal.

We’re “judged” by our students’ success and failures. Are we responsible for a kid’s success, and, conversely, for their failures? Could we have done better?

Kids seem to take endless tests, we prepare them, and did we do enough?

It is not surprising that the teacher attrition rate is far beyond any other profession, and, the neediest schools have the highest attrition.

The recently negotiated New York City teacher union (UFT) is offering a higher rate of pay for teachers in designated high attrition schools.

Teachers need time to decompress, to get away from the increasing pressure as the school year prepares for April/May state testing or the June high school regents exams.

For some teachers: a week off and on to teaching summer school, to pay off college loans or just get ahead of the curve. For others, summer school to complete required course work.

In my day really low cost charter flights (“Air Obscure”) a backpack and a summer of traveling across Europe with a Euro pass staying in hostels.

One change, a major change, is teacher political activism. As the attacks on teachers escalated teachers began to realize that the organizational skills of classroom teachers are transferable to the skills required to elect a candidate. More and more teacher are running for office and working in the political arena.

I have friends working for an organization fighting the concentration camps incarcerating children and families on our Southern borders, reminiscent of teacher civil rights activism in the 60s.

For my teacher colleagues: read a few books, eat a healthier diet, plenty of exercise, and keep a notebook, as the light bulb flashes, jot it down, before you know it you’ll be waking up really early thinking of the clock counting down the days to that Tuesday after Labor Day.

The Downside of Mayoral Control: Can Political Agendas Drive Education Policy?

For a millennium superintendents, selected by elected lay school boards managed schools. Educational policy was set by the neighbor down the block and his/her neighbors who had the political smarts to get elected in non-partisan elections commonly held in May, with low voter turnouts. Superintendents walked a thin line, satisfying a school board, negotiating a labor agreement, and making  educational decisions that result in “progress.”

In most nations education is section of the national government  .

In the nineties a few urban school districts began to move to mayoral control; the mayor appoints the superintendent and the superintendent, in effect, serves as a deputy mayor for education.

Some scholars have assessed mayoral control positively (See here and here),

Kenneth Wong in The Education Mayor wrote,

 …  although mayoral control of schools may not be appropriate for every district, it can successfully emphasize accountability across the education system, providing more leverage for each school district to strengthen its educational infrastructure and improve student performance.

Diane Ravitch, on the other hand, is sharply critical of the Bloomberg iteration of mayoral control and suggests a mayoral control model with strong checks and balances,

This is not to say that Albany should eliminate mayoral control — nobody wants to return to the status quo of the ’90s. However, as legislators refine the law, they should establish clear checks and balances. The mayor should be authorized to appoint an independent Board of Education, whose members would serve for a set term. Candidates for the board should be evaluated by a blue-ribbon panel so that no mayor can stack it with friends. That board should appoint the chancellor, and his or her first responsibility must be to the children and their schools, not to the mayor.

 While Bloomberg battled with the teacher union de Blasio has worked closely with the union; under Bloomberg the union went five years without a contract and punitive teacher unsatisfactory ratings ballooned, under de Blasio two contracts have been collegially negotiated and a new teacher evaluation system is working well.

The mayor and his chancellor have been sharply critical of the lack of school integration, the racially exclusive impact of the Specialized High School Admissions Test, student suspensions and arrests in schools; however, the police commissioner and the chancellor are appointed by the mayor. Is Walt Kelly correct: “We have met the enemy and he/she is us?”

Is mayoral control driving the political agenda of a mayor who is running for president?

Are police arrests in schools a problem or a creation of the mayor?

Don’t get me wrong, de Blasio has been a highly successful mayor, read Michelle Goldberg’s op ed in the NY Times, “Stop Sneering at Bill de Blasio” he shouldn’t have chosen to run for president

He can integrate schools by changing the entrance criteria for the over 200 screened schools, he can fund SHSAT prep programs in middle schools, he can support comprehensive high schools, schools admitting all level of students, by academic test scores to vocational and career and technical interests and work-study programs.

He has chosen a policy initiative that might “play well” with Afro-American and progressive voters

With the usual fanfare the mayor announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the police department, the city and the department of education (all city agencies) changing the role of police in the schools.

Every school has School Safety Officers (SSO) assigned to a school, the SSO’s are not police officers; however, they work under the supervision of the police department. Their duties range from checking in school visitors, to operating scanning in large high school buildings to monitoring school behavior within a school building in cooperation with school personnel. Police officers may be assigned to schools with a history of dangerous behaviors.

School MUST report all “incidents” in a school.

The Behavioral Expectation document, know as the School Discipline Code is an extremely detailed 35-page compilation of levels of inappropriate behaviors, every incident, whether or not it results in a suspension must be entered into the Department data base.

Supports and interventions are an integral part of a comprehensive response to misconduct. Schools are required to provide and document support services at all stages of the disciplinary process, including during suspension. When used consistently and appropriately, interventions help improve student behavior, lower the incidence of repeated misbehavior, and contribute to a more positive school environment. Support services may include any of the interventions or a combination of services that best meet the needs of the individual student.

  Required Documentation: All interventions and supports provided to a student in response to behavioral incidents must be entered into the Suspensions and Office of Hearings Online (SOHO) system, regardless of whether or not a disciplinary action is imposed.

 How common is it for a school leader to call 911? To request police presence in a school? How common is it for a SSO request that the police restrain or arrest a student?

The absence of any data relating to the question supra leads to suspicion: is the issue created by the mayor?

The MOU lists specific behavior not subject to  SSO or uniformed NYPD actions: how often do school personnel call the police for the behaviors listed below?

The parties agree that school personnel should not call upon SSO personnel and/or uniformed members of the NYPD to address or respond to non-criminal, minor misconduct. Such misconduct may include, but is not limited to, the following behaviors: 1) behaving in a manner which disrupts the educational process (e. g., making excessive noise); 2) failing to wear the required uniform; 3) cutting classes; 4) lateness to school or classes; 5) unexcused absence from school; 6) engaging in a rude or disrespectful behavior; 7) wearing clothing or headgear or other items that are unsafe or disruptive to the education process; 8) smoking and or the use of electronic cigarettes and/or possession of matches or lighters; 9) using school computers, fax machines, telephones, and/or other electronic equipment or devices without appropriate authorization; 11) lying to, giving false information, to, or, otherwise misleading school personnel; 12) misusing property belonging to others

And,

The parties agree that SSO personnel and uniformed members of the NYPD shall utilize, whenever possible, diversionary responses and protocols in lieu of arresting or issuing a summons to a student. In particular, school-based low level school based offenses, such as those listed below, on a case by case basis; be eligible for diversion, when feasible:

  • low level marijuana possession;
  • disorderly conduct;
  • consumption of alcohol;
  • trespass;
  • harassment;
  • spitting in public;
  • graffiti; and
  • other low level offenses that may be safely handled by school administration

The list of behaviors vary from trivial to serious.

 Read the entire fifteen page MOU here.

While the MOU refers to a Leadership Team: school leaders, school deans and classroom teachers appear unaware of the MOU creation process. The teacher and supervisory union does not appear to have had any role in the MOU creation process and are not signatories. There was no period for public comment or a public hearing.

A crucial rule: participation reduces resistance.

I called around, to school leaders and teachers;

“It’s insulting, I’ve never called the police and we try hard, very hard, to disabuse students of engaging in inappropriate behavior.”

“Is this a joke? Who would call the police every time a kid committed one of the listed infractions; this is ludicrous.”

“I speak with the precinct regularly, we share information, they tell me if something happened in the streets that may spill over into school and I inform them if the kids tell me about some gang activity. Are they discouraging our cooperation?”

“Maybe they’re referring to charter schools? We enter everything into the online reporting system; we’ve never had a kid arrested due to minor school infractions.”

The data is readily available: how many students are arrested in schools and for what charge?

Unintended consequences: Will SSOs, NYPD and school-based pedagogical personnel back away from responding to low level infractions for fear of violating the MOU? What is a “diversion”? Who determines “non-criminal misconduct?” and many more questions.

I worked with a superintendent who constantly reminded staff, “Order precedes learning,” and, I will add, “Effective instruction leads to order.”

A Memorandum clarifying the roles of pedagogical and school safety personnel is important, the MOU released by the mayor; unfortunately, falls short.

Suspensions should be a step in a ladder of discipline, beginning with effective classroom instruction, up the ladder to guidance/counseling provided by school staff, the use of positive behavior intervention strategies and on to a principal level suspension, actually an extended “time out” including a parent conference. Arrest is an extreme response.

A superintendent suspension, more than five days in an offsite suspension center, for serious misconduct; a weapon, a fight, gang activity, etc, all spelled out in minute detail in the Discipline Code, and, a hearing conducted by a hearing officer, who also determines the length of the suspension.

Do suspensions work?  Do suspensions “correct” inappropriate behaviors?  Are “diversions” more effective than suspensions? Do suspensions improve the outcomes for the other students in the class?

If school is practice for life after school ignoring serious misconduct is failing our students. How do you address serious misconduct?

Controversial questions, with deep feelings on both sides of the question.

Racism, White Privilege, Charter Schools, Equity, Economic Inequality: Is There a Pathway Out of Generational Poverty?

After centuries of brutal race-based slavery, a civil war, 600,000 fatalities the ‘13th Amendment ended slavery (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”), the 14th Amendment granted equal rights to all Americans (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, … are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) .and 15th Amendment gave former slaves the right to vote (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”).

Sadly, with the abandonment of Reconstruction, the imposition of Jim Crow laws and Supreme Court decisions the rights and freedoms that were guaranteed by the new amendments to the constitution were stripped away, peonage replaced slavery.

Incredibly a hundred years passed before the nation began to implement the dreams of the civil war constitutional amendments.

The Lyndon Johnson “Great Society” War On Poverty included a Voting Rights Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Social Security Acts, which created Medicare and Medicaid, the Food Stamp Act and the Public Accommodation Act; the nation was righting wrongs that had sidetracked the constitutional amendments passed a century earlier.

The Great Society, in spite of high expectations, failed to end poverty, and failed to end centuries of racism.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his 1965 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, commonly called the Moynihan Report acknowledged the impact of racism; however, points to the black family structure,

The Moynihan Report generated considerable controversy and has had long-lasting and important influence. Writing to Lyndon Johnson, Moynihan argued that without access to jobs and the means to contribute meaningful support to a family, black men would become systematically alienated from their roles as husbands and fathers, which would cause rates of divorce, child abandonment and out-of-wedlock births to skyrocket in the black community (a trend that had already begun by the mid-1960s), leading to vast increases in the numbers of households headed by females and the higher rates of poverty, lower educational outcomes, and inflated rates of child abuse that are allegedly associated with these factors

 Moynihan was excoriated by many, especially in the progressive and Afro-American communities and praised by those on the right.

William Julius Wilson, the Afro-American sociologist, in the Declining Significance of Race  ,(1978) argued that economic factors drove the failure of Afro-Americans to break away from the cycle of poverty.

… the original argument, as outlined in The Declining Significance of Race, was not that race is no longer significant or that racial barriers between blacks and whites have been eliminated. Rather, in comparing the contemporary situation of African Americans to their situation in the past, the diverging experiences of blacks along class lines indicate that race is no longer the primary determinant of life chances for blacks (in the way it had been historically).

Moynihan and Wilson were rejected by a new generation of scholars who saw racism, often times masked by implicit bias and white privilege; and, the new research collectively is referred to as Critical Race Theory,

CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.  CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.

 The current deBlasio/Carranza equity for all agenda is heavily influenced by Critical Race Theory as well as the state adoption of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,

The most impactful changes in education and anti-poverty initiatives came from the richest Americans, Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, and others who backed up their ideas with many millions and political clout. Nick Hanuaer, in the July, Atlantic penned an amazing article,

 I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America …

For Hanauer the answers were simple,

 I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored …

Hanuer had an apotheosis,

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income …

 All of which suggests that income inequality has exploded not because of our country’s educational failings but despite its educational progress. Make no mistake: Education is an unalloyed good. We should advocate for more of it, so long as it’s of high quality. But the longer we pretend that education is the answer to economic inequality, the harder it will be to escape our new Gilded Age …

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, …  by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less.

The democratic candidates, especially Elizabeth Warren point to economic inequality as a root cause of generational poverty and the remainder of the candidates, to one degree or another, agree.

Booker and O’Rourke have charter school roots, Bernie criticized charters and Biden has always been close to teacher unions.

Some of us hoped that with the election of Obama we were entering a post racial era, as the election of Trump has shown us we are far, far away from a post racial world.

Anti-poverty programs had high expectations, unfulfilled expectations.

The gap between the 1% and the 99% has widened and continues to widen.

There are no magic bullets, charter schools, vouchers: the agenda of super rich, attacking public schools and treating schools as competitive units in a capitalistic world is a failure.

Critical Race Theory is hotly debated in academia, and, in the laboratory of the New York City school system is greeted with suspicion.

Pockets of generational poverty in Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and New York City persist over generations.

I was talking with teachers in a high poverty school plagued by generations of poverty.

One of the teachers opined, “We love our kids,” another laughed and added, “Well, most of them.”

“Kids come late, are absent, parents seem unconcerned, use kids to baby-sit other kids, to do the laundry, allow them to stay home and watch TV all day and the parents bicker among themselves.”

“They don’t trust ‘the system,’ they’re been living off some type of social service for a lifetime; for far too many kids dysfunction is the standard,”

“We need social workers, guidance counselors, a nurse, a health clinic, job training, we have none of it.”

“The rules are different, if a kids hits you, hit them back, the rules of the street, we’re part of the community and try and teach the kids another set of rules.”

“This is where I belong, kids do ‘get out,’ we promise them a better life; we can’t promise them a job,”

Examples of white privilege? Implicit bias? All the teachers were Afro-American.

Teachers save lives, teachers are heroes and teachers cannot thwart centuries of racism: at the end of the pathway kids need jobs and schools alone cannot substitute for economic deprivation.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh36PkhmN4U

Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR): Evaluating Chancellor Richard Carranza

Chancellor Richard Carranza is completing his first full year as the leader of the New York City school system.

How has he done? Is he Highly Effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective?

New York City is a mayoral control city; the chancellor, the leader of the school system functions as the deputy mayor for education, he is responsible to the mayor although technically selected by a school board, the majority of whom are appointed by the mayor.

On one hand the mayor and the chancellor are on the same page, a positive, on the other hand the chancellor must implement the political agenda of the mayor, politics may trump (excuse the term) education.

To further complicate the mayor is running for president, one of the twenty plus candidates who is attempting to separate himself from his contenders.

20% of voters in the democratic primaries are Afro-American and another 20% are “progressive” voters: will the mayor’s educational agenda attract Afro-American and progressive voters in the primaries? The mayor has to reach thresholds to be part of the debate process that begins in a few weeks and one could argue that much of what is happening in New York City is part of an national political strategy.

Is the de Blasio/Carranza equity agenda at the core of the de Blasio presidential primary run?

The equity agenda (peruse Carranza’s tweets) has dominated the news cycle, from sharply criticizing the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the 23 million dollar system-wide anti-bias training, to the Diversity Advisory Group Task Force Report.

Months after the February release of the Report the Mayor accepted almost all of the recommendations.

The overwhelming percentage of news coverage has dealt with aspects of the equity agenda.

It seems like every week there is an announcement or a response to an equity issue, the anti-bias training was both sharply criticized and supported; (I blogged about the issue here): whether you favor or oppose is it worth $23 million?   Would the dollars be better spent improving mathematics instruction in the elementary schools?

One could argue that Carranza is a “good soldier” carrying out the agenda of an ambitious mayor?

At the core of the mayor’s agenda is working with the teacher union. The union is a political force in the city as well as nationally. The AFT president, Randy Weingarten, has hosted widely advertised town hall meetings with teachers with the leading candidates, and, the de Blasio achievements: Pre-K for All, Community Schools and two widely praised union contracts with highly collaborative contract initiatives are attractive to teachers across the country.

Carranza, to his credit, clearly feels comfortable working with Michael Mulgrew, the union president; at Sunday’s Puerto Rico Day Parade he joined the UFT delegation for the entire parade.

The Bronx Plan, a highly collaborative initiative to embed best practices into the lowest achieving schools, not like the widely criticized Renewal program, the Bronx Plan is a close collaboration between the department and the union.

There is concerning dark side.

Decisions that impact students should be made by school leaders and teachers, the folks closest to the kids. How do you deconstruct a school system into many smaller school systems?

The affinity networks, in the last few years of the Bloomberg mayoralty, in my view, were a positive step. Carranza moved in the opposite direction, adding another layer of management, executive superintendents, moving the chancellor further away from classrooms.

Special Education remains a disaster, students unserved and/or underserved with delays in evaluation and placement commonplace. This is a longstanding problem that has gotten worse under Carranza.

Is Carranza working on a curriculum? Why do schools use dozens of different reading programs?  Is middle management; namely, principals, as collaborative as the chancellor?  And, if not, why not?

Are superintendents in schools every day?  Meeting with teachers and parents? Attending school leadership team meetings?

I hope so ….

On the education side the school system appears to be adrift. Why can’t I click and find the 4th grade mathematics curriculum? Or, the curriculum for any grade?  Why are Community Education Councils (CECs) powerless? The CEC meetings are virtually unattended, with many vacant seats? The only exception: integration zoning issue meetings.

How would I rate Carranza?   As a chancellor working in a mayoral control climate: very effective, as the leader of a school system, disappointing; I would rate him as “developing.”