College Bound or Career Ready:  Can NYC Prepare ALL Students?  Is CTE “Tracking” Students? How Do We Select the Appropriate Pathway?

I was chatting with a high school principal, he was upset,

“I thought I had a great idea, use tutoring manuals for civil service examinations as texts, Fire Department, Police, EMT, show kids the salary schedules, and prepare them for whatever careers they’re interested in …”

Me: “Sounds like a wonderful idea.”

Principal: “Superintendent shot it down, told me I was tracking kids, told me every kid must be prepared for college, ripped me, told me to check out my biases.”

A middle school principal,

“I told my guidance counselor to have our students apply to CTE high schools, our kid need jobs when they graduate; their families can’t afford two or three years in a community college without any income.”

Unfortunately chancellors seek out the headlines, the grandiose scheme, the “magic bullet,” the lugubrious bureaucracy lumbers from “next big thing” to the next “big thing” while school leaders are in contact with the day-to-day needs of students and their families.

Should the chancellors “push” schools to schedule students, especially students of color into higher level classes?

The Research Alliance for NYC Schools just released a number of reports, Introducing the Indicators of Equity Project and Access to Advanced Coursework in NYC High Schools, and the results are not surprising; student of color have less access to “college bound” coursework in high schools; setting up a conflict between college bound and career ready tracks.

Graduates of public high schools in NYC who enter CUNY colleges in the bottom 40 percent of family income a decade later are in the top 40% of income earners.

Colleges with the highest mobility rate, from the bottom 40 percent to the top 40 percent

1.Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology66.066.443.9
2.City College of New York60.562.938.1
3.Texas A&M International University60.762.437.9
4.Lehman College64.657.036.8
5.Bernard M. Baruch College52.369.236.2

Of the hundreds of colleges across the nation surveyed three of the top five highest mobility rate colleges are CUNY colleges with student bodies from NYC public high schools and the research appears to challenge other data about New York City, Raj Chetty and his team and his team at Harvard,

… explore the factors correlated with upward mobility. High mobility areas have (1) less residential segregation, (2) less income inequality, (3) better primary schools, (4) greater social capital, and (5) greater family stability

And Chetty makes number of more specific recommendations, see here.

Let’s take a closer look at Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, fka, Vocational Education.

In the movement to mayoral control the Bloomberg administration closed over 150 schools, including most of the vocational high schools, and, today there are 485 high schools school enrolling 300-400 students sited in multiple school campuses. The unwieldy 492 page High School Directory (See here) and the CTE webpage; the Directory “advertises” the schools as if they were products on the net. Caveat Emptor

While over 100 small high schools list themselves as CTE schools how many students graduate with CTE endorsed diplomas?  How many CTE schools are approved by the State?

How many graduates from CTE programs move to employment? To community college? Where are they five years after high school graduation?

Ray Domanico, at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, is a fan of the small high school movement    and favors a range of assessment approaches,

various approaches to schooling should be encouraged, not stamped out in the search for standardization. Some of the best new schools belong to a network that fiercely argues against reliance on standardized testing and whose students are given an exemption from some of the state’s required exams. Their students go on to college and perform well. Other new schools strictly follow testing standards and pursue more traditional teaching styles. Despite their different philosophies, both types have found success when led by talented and dedicated professionals.

And Domanico is a fan of what he calls, “workforce preparation,” aka ‘career and technical education. 

while the city’s new schools are achieving admirable results, they have not created miracles. Large numbers of their students enter high school already behind, and they are not ready for college after four years of high school. Our nation’s misguided notion that all students must be prepared for college needs to be abandoned and students must be given an option to choose technical education or workforce preparation in their high school years.

Tamar Jacoby, the CEO of Opportunity America, praises vocational education,

Once one of the most disparaged forms of education in the United States, what used to be called “vocational education”—now renamed “career and technical education,” or CTE—has emerged in the past decade as one of the most promising approaches to preparing students for the future. New York City is at the forefront of the national revolution in career education.

On March 15th the Manhattan Institute hosted four experts on a Zoom, CUNY and the Future of Workforce Education, required watching for Chancellor Banks and his team, Watch here

In recent years, New York’s economy has evolved rapidly, which has changed the landscape for skilled labor. CUNY, the city’s flagship university system, plays a key role in equipping students for work in critical industries like health care, technology, and logistics. With a new mayoral administration incoming and a post-pandemic economy, the time is ripe for NYC and Albany’s education leadership to re-align CUNY’s programs with the evolving needs of industry and its diverse student body.

The New York State Department of Education, Office of the Professions, provides licensure in fifty areas, from medicine to massage therapy, ranging from graduate training to the number of course hours. (see here).  In addition the New York Department of State issues licenses in many areas, for example see cosmetology here

New York City also provides licenses, for example phlebotomists, see NYC salary here

While the chancellor includes favoring CTE education in his utterances, no actions that I am aware ofa re pending and too much self aggrandizement.

“A lot of parents just don’t trust the DOE, and they’re very upset with things that happened during the prior administration,” [Banks] told City & State. “I really want to hold the mayor and (myself) to account for engaging them, authentically,” he added. “The parents don’t want to be sidelined; they want to have a seat at the table – and they should!”

At the same time Community Education Councils (CEC), parents elected by parents are pushed aside; half of the CECs testified at a recent legislative hearing objecting to the current iteration of mayoral control and called for an enlarged role of parent on the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP), the New York City School Board.

While Banks attacked the “bureaucracy,” he is the bureaucracy

Adams was elected in mid-July with minimal opposition in the November General Election, Banks was selected on December 17th, its mid April, and planning for the next school year should be fully engaged. Next year’s school calendar has not been released.

Pre-Bloomberg there we about 110 comprehensive high schools with 2000 to 5000 students per school and about 25 vocational high schools. Sadly too many schools were “dropout mills,” the Department of Education had begun to phase out the most dysfunctional schools, created a High School Chancellors District, converting the most dysfunctional schools to multiple small schools within the same buildings. Most of the vocational high schools were closed due to low achievement.

Today there are 485 high schools, about 20 large schools, the remainder small schools, 300-400 students each on multiple school campuses.

Over 100 small high schools list themselves as CTE schools, are they actually preparing student for careers and the world of work?  Are they linked to community colleges and internships?

Is there “upward mobility” data for graduates of CTE high schools?  For students earning state certification licensure from community colleges?

Community Colleges prepare students for associate degrees, sixty credits, the most common cohort are planning to move to 4-year CUNY colleges, for others preparing for a state certification areas, for example nursing, many are eligible for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and/or Excelsior Scholarships.

However, many of the state licensure areas require a number of courses; called badges, not a degree, and students are not eligible for financial aid. 

I suggest:

* A key is alignment: a track from middle school to high school to community college to the state licensure certification for students seeking a career pathway.

* The chancellor should create a Superintendent for Career and Technical Education, with a support organization.

* Create a data base: how many CTE schools are state-approved?  How many students graduate with CTE-endorsed diplomas?   And crucial: where are student five years after graduation?  

* Students in certification programs that are not degree programs should eligible for state financial support aid programs.

* The Department must work with the business community to create internship partnerships with schools.

The current Deputy Chancellors are primarily from outside the system and dissecting the mastodon, the Department of Education is an Herculean task; clocks are ticking, remember, the primary function of a bureaucracy is to maintain the bureaucracy.

Too many students graduate high school ill-prepared for college and career. Too many students never complete post-secondary education.

The NYC economy depends upon increasing the skills of high school graduates.

“The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating,” Mayor Adams Takes the Stage

As the ball dropped at midnight Eric Adams became the 110th mayor of New York City and Bill de Blasio left the stage. The long list of previous mayors is tarnished and none have gone on to higher office, although they tried.

John Lindsay, a progressive Republican was elected in 1965 in the midst of a nation torn apart by urban riots, the opposition to the war in Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The Kerner Report (1967), officially the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders best known passage warned:

“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” The report was a strong indictment of white America: “What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Its results suggested that one main cause of urban violence was white racism and suggested that white America bore much of the responsibility for black rioting and rebellion. It called to create new jobs, construct new housing, and put a stop to de facto segregation in order to wipe out the destructive ghetto environment. In order to do so, the report recommended for government programs to provide needed services, to hire more diverse and sensitive police forces and, most notably, to invest billions in housing programs aimed at breaking up residential segregation.

The Report sounds like it was written yesterday, for over fifty years mayors have failed to meet the Report’s recommendations.

Lindsay was lauded; riots across the nation, Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark, the nation’s cities were burning, and Lindsay avoided the same fate for New York City; he “walked the streets” and appeared to be headed for the White House.

Lindsay’s run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1972 failed.

I blogged in detail about Lindsay here; give it a read, lessons for today.

His successor Abe Beame presided over the 1975 near default, 15,000 teachers laid off, the city saved by Al Shanker, the teacher union president loaning the city dollars from pension funds to avert an actual default.

 For a dozen years Ed Koch satisfied the needs of a deeply corrupt administration, schools were drastically underfunded and venality commonplace in elected school boards in the poorest districts.

David Dinkins, the first Black mayor, who defeated Koch in a primary, oddly refused to negotiate a teachers’ contract for months, lost support and was defeated by Rudi Giuliani, eight years of harsh policing, one could easily say a blatantly racist administration.

Twelve year of Bloomberg, who probably blames teachers for his failed run for the presidency, his recent promise of $750 million over five years for charter schools sounds like pique.

 De Blasio, in spite of his progressive creds and two sweeping victories at the polls is criticized from the right and the left; aside from Chirlene, hard to find his cheerleaders.

Sally Goldenberg in Politico. parses de Blasio’s heritage,

De Blasio proved himself to be a capable  manager who shepherded New York from the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic to a city that reopened schools, restaurants and theaters — all while maintaining one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Along the way, he broke with his own conventions — challenging unions and religious leaders who have reliably supported his electoral ambitions.

But the sharp political instinct that guided him from Brooklyn school board to City Hall eluded him throughout his tenure. He instigated unwinnable fights, waged class warfare on people who fancy themselves civic boosters and persisted in courting constituencies that never much liked him in the first place.

Ross Barkan, on substack paints a picture of Adams very different from de Blasio,

Adams promises something very different. He is wily, unpredictable, and temperamental, his political compass shifting left and right. He is a mayor for the Black working-class and BlackRock. The richest men in America invested in his mayoral campaign, as did neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Southeast Queens. His policy agenda, at best, is thinly-sketched. The de facto head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party will run his government.

The media, from newspapers to Twitter report news as well as “cancel” electeds, and de Blasio never connected with the reportorial classes,

…  traditional newspapers and TV stations cannot so readily sketch narratives anymore and tell people what to think, but New York City remains a market where you want the tabloids, the local radio stations, and Channels 2 and 4 and 7 on your side. Together, intentionally or not, they tell a story, and a mayor does not want to be on the wrong end of it. De Blasio always was.

Adams, a former NYC Police Captain promises reductions in crime and crime has dominated news outlets. Crime data, in detail, is publicly available (Read here) 2020 saw a 50% increase in homicides, in 2021, a 5% increase. The data is posted weekly.

Adam’s success, or lack thereof, in reducing crime will be readily available.

Adams, and his school leader David Banks, have tossed out one-line policy statements; teach reading through phonics rather than Whole Language; the reading wars began in 1955 (“Why Johnny Can’t Read”) and John McWhorter (Read John McWhorter in The Atlantic, 1/2019) and continue today; however, decisions on curriculum are made at the school level. Is reading teaching methodology at the top of “the list?”

Adam’s 100 Steps Forward agenda lists education initiatives, each with a paragraph description, not a detailed policy paper.












Some of the “ideas” are extremely expensive; childcare for all will require Build Back Better, now stalled in Washington. How do you fund year-round schools? Didn’t Adams just refuse remote learning and order a full opening on January 3rd …. many, many legitimate questions.

Once upon a time reporters simply reported the news, a high wall separated reporting and editorial comment.  Today the editorial side drives the news side (“All the new that fits, we print”), an example, the NY Post. Every reporter is also an investigative reporter and Twitter comments are “news.”

“Clicks” drive the news cycle. We wake up in the morning and check our phone, what do our favorite websites say …. What stories garner the most “clicks” and “high-click” posts beget more coverage and more clicks, until the next cycle. “If it bleeds it leads” is the mantra of too many news outlets.

At one time New York City had four morning newspapers and three evening papers, today we have a seemingly endless array spewing forth “news”

Newspapers are online and headlines/articles change throughout the day (and night) and other news outlets pop up as well as substack and bloggers.

De Blasio was never able to control the news cycle.

If schools turn into super spreaders Adams, who insisted on a January 3rd school opening will have jumped off the diving board into an empty pool.

Cuomo managed the press effectively, he set the agenda, he dominated the face time, Machiavellian, he was more feared then loved. Until the day came, and the media hostility exploded, he could no longer control the press.

From Lindsay to de Blasio, liberal mayors bookend a half century that failed to address the Kerner commission policy recommendations.

… one main cause of urban violence was white racism … white America bore much of the responsibility for black rioting and rebellion. It called to create new jobs, construct new housing, and put a stop to de facto segregation in order to wipe out the destructive ghetto environment. In order to do so, the report recommended for government programs to provide needed services, to hire more diverse and sensitive police forces and, most notably, to invest billions in housing programs aimed at breaking up residential segregation.

Can a Black Mayor, a centrist politically, who portrays himself to the electorate as “one of them” confront the glaring inequities across the city?  Can he walk the line between crime fighter and racialized policing?  Can he work with teachers and their union in a collaborative environment or continue an aimless school system shifting from ukase to ukase?

An old, a very old adage, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”

Stumbling Out of the Box: Mayor Adams Faces His First Crisis

Eric Adams was effectively elected mayor six months ago, months to plan out his first hundred days, initiative after initiative; his campaign platform is spelled out in 100 Steps Forward. 40-pages of big ideas spanning the vast array of mayoral responsibilities coupled with a school chancellor who is a close friend, a police commissioner able to translate his policies, many women in high profile roles and many de Blasio carry-over commissioners.

Adams envisioned a first hundred days akin to FDR’s first hundred days

An inauguration, more like a coronation in the iconic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, a glittering start and then, COVID/Omicron sucks up all the air.

Positive tests skyrocket.   Every morning the NY Times Coronavirus Tracker  pops up on my phone. The tracker lists increases/decreases in COVID positive tests from day to day – on Monday up 28 per cent with the curve almost straight up.

In the final days of school prior to the holiday recess the Department of Education Situation Room, schools report positive tests to the “room” and are sent a “COVID Contact” form: the Situation Room was overwhelmed, phones unanswered, chaos at a key point in the COVID safety chain.

The indoor inauguration cancelled and moved outdoors, testing sites overwhelmed with lines with hours long waits. Stores sold out of COVID home testing kits and Adams faced with a crisis days before he is sworn into office.

Mayor de Blasio on the stage with Adams, still the Mayor is not leaving quietly; a controversial mayor is deciding whether to enter the June Democratic gubernatorial primary race, although his polling numbers are dreadful.

Can school re-open on January 3rd?  Will schools become Coronavirus Super Spreaders? Should testing of all students and staff be required before the January 3rd return?  Should the school reopening be delayed until the testing is complete?

This morning Adams and de Blasio announced January 3rd opening plans.

The letter to parents and staff (Read here) posted on the Department website “strongly encourages,”

To keep our school communities safe upon everyone’s return to school buildings, we strongly encourage that all students get tested for COVID-19, through a PCR, lab-based rapid test, or a home test kit, before returning to school on January 3, regardless of vaccination status.(the Department will double in-school weekly testing from 10% to 20% of students and staff)

The random in-school surveillance program continues to provide public health experts with an accurate look at the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools. We encourage all families, regardless of whether their child is vaccinated, to consent to in-school testing through their NYC Schools Account (Open external link) or return a signed paper form to the school.

How many families have returned the “consent to in-school testing form?”  Mark Treyger, the outgoing chair of the City Council Education Committee requested information on numbers of consent forms returned by school, the Department has not responded.

Anecdotally, schools in the highest poverty districts are neighborhoods with the highest COVID rates and have the lowest number of returned COVID consent forms.

The key person missing from stage was teacher union President Michael Mulgrew.

In an interview on NY1 last week, United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew indicated that – without a major expansion in testing – the union could block a return to buildings on January 3rd. .

“Our testing system that we have is now broken,” he said. “I’m working with the Adams administration. We’ll work through this entire break. But if we don’t see we’re getting the testing system we know we need to keep our schools and communities and children remain safe then we’re going to have to take a different position on this whole schools have to remain open.” 

Whether the actions of the Adams administration are sufficient is unclear,

But experts who spoke to WNYC/Gothamist said it is essential that the city take a more proactive approach to testing, including prioritizing access to tests for students and staff before school reopens.  

They said the city must also increase testing within public schools moving forward. The district serves 940,000 students.

“I’d like to see all faculty, students and staff have unfettered access to the testing that they may need,” said Denis Nash, professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health. 

A few hours ago Mulgrew posted on twitter,

Teachers are prepared to do their jobs on Jan. 3. The real issue is whether the city can do its job — ensuring that new testing initiatives are available in every school and an improved Situation Room is actually in place by next week. (1/4)

We want to thank Gov. Hochul for listening to our request, and for providing city schools with 2 million instant tests so that anyone with close contact with a positive case will be able to know immediately if they are infectious and must quarantine. (2/4)

We’re glad that after weeks of lobbying both the current & incoming administrations, the Situation Room is being rebuilt after basically coming apart in the last several weeks. The system will increase its ability to provide PCR tests to more adults & children every week. (3/4)·

We are moving closer to a safe re-opening of school next week. But we are not there yet. (4/4)

With a million students and a hundred thousand employees testing prior to the opening of schools is not feasible and no electeds are advocating for a delayed opening of schools.

New York City has the strictest virus mandates in the country (Read here) and also the fastest rates of transmission.

On the positive side,

Craig Spencer, a Manhattan ER doctor affiliated with Columbia University who became a Twitter superstar in the early days of the pandemic for his running commentary on the battle against the virus, tweeted a detailed breakdown late Sunday of what omicron cases look like.

“Every patient I’ve seen with Covid that’s had a 3rd ‘booster’ dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine,” Spencer wrote.

From there, it goes downhill – slowly, though.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna still had ‘mild’ symptoms, but more than those who had received a third dose. More fatigued. More fever. More coughing. A little more miserable overall. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty breathing. Mostly fine,” he said.

For those who just had the one shot of the J&J vaccine and never took a booster, the situation isn’t as good.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had one dose of J&J and had Covid were worse overall. Felt horrible. Fever for a few days (or more). Weak, tired. Some shortness of breath and cough. But not one needing hospitalization. Not one needing oxygen. Not great. But not life-threatening,” he tweeted.

And then there are the unvaccinated, who by all data are being hospitalized at a rate 15x or more the vaccinated.

“And almost every single patient that I’ve taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated. Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breath regularly,” he said.

With all school personnel vaccinated and most boosted Omicron for the vast majority is not life-threatening. Yes scary, yes, a dark shadow hanging out there, is there another variant about to drop and disrupt our lives?

On an upbeat note: scientists are well along working on a universal vaccine that will protect against all variants, a fascinating article – read here

It’s Tuesday (12/29), how will 2021 end? With a bang or with a whimper?

Where Have the Teachers Gone?  How Are We Addressing the Looming Teacher Shortages?



WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers convened a new national taskforce to tackle widespread educator and support staff shortages imperiling the future of public schools and public education.

The AFT Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force  will examine causes and propose solutions for districts experiencing extreme shortages leading to immense pressure on educators and families that could disrupt recovery from the pandemic. Adding to the chaos, schools have been roiled for months by poisonous national political debates that have turned them into cultural battlefields.

Two years of a pandemic has accelerated a flight from the profession of teaching. Teaching was a respected profession in communities with some shortages in high poverty schools and in some certification areas; a decade ago we began to see fewer and fewer students in college teacher preparation programs.

Let’s take a longer view:

The first wave of reform, I’m sorry, I’m a history teacher, was the Pendleton Act (1883) that established the federal civil service.

Federal, state and local employees had been selected through a spoils system, political party affiliation, responding to the assassination of President Arthur by a disappointed office seeker, a civil service reform law was passed.

 The legislation was intended to guarantee the rights of all citizens to compete for federal jobs without preferential treatment given based on politics, race, religion or origin.

The reform movement moved from Washington to the states and the boroughs “consolidated” to create New York City. As part of the Great Consolidation the school systems were combined and a local civil service law created the Board of Examiners. Teacher and supervisor candidates took an examination and were placed on a rank order list and appointed to schools.

In 1960s the Board of Examiners came under assault, the examination system had a “disparate impact” on candidates of color and the federal courts sustained the appellants ending examinations for school supervisors. .

The attacks on the Board of Examiners continued, the process took years and thousands of teachers worked as substitutes awaiting the actions of Board. In 1990 the State legislature dissolved the Board of Examiners.

While the examination system ended the school system continued to struggle to recruit and license teachers and many thousands of teachers languished as substitutes. Schools in high poverty neighborhoods, “hard to staff” schools, had a continuing turnover of staff, teachers quitting and teachers moving to other higher socio-economic schools.

The Obama/Duncan Race to the Top, a competitive grant program, $4.3 billion, required teacher accountability systems linking pupil achievement to teacher ratings as well as adopting Common Core State Standards in federally required grades 3-8 state tests.

The unanticipated impact: teacher preparation programs began to see fewer enrollees.

A guide for school districts, published before the pandemic (2019) highlights and suggests avenues to address teacher shortages, Who Will Teach the Children: Recruiting, Retaining and Refreshing Highly Effective Educators, Franklin Schargel (Read review here)

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), again, before the pandemic took a deep dive highlighting Retention and Attraction of teachers.

Teachers are leaving in significant increasing numbers and teacher preparation programs have reduced enrollments. EPI conducted a six part series of articles Read here.

What we can do about it: Tackle the working conditions and other factors that are prompting teachers to quit and dissuading people from entering the profession, thus making it harder for school districts to retain and attract highly qualified teachers: low pay, a challenging school environment, and weak professional development support and recognition. In addition to tackling these factors for all schools, we must provide extra supports and funding to high-poverty schools, where teacher shortages are even more of a problem.

* One factor behind staffing difficulties in both low- and high-poverty schools is the high share of public school teachers leaving their posts: 13.8% were either leaving their school or leaving teaching altogether in a given year, according to the most recent data

* Another factor is the dwindling pool of applicants to fill vacancies: From the 2008–2009 to the 2015–2016 school year, the annual number of education degrees awarded fell by 15.4%,  And the annual number of people who completed a teacher preparation program fell by 27.4%

* Schools are also having a harder time retaining credentialed teachers, as is evident in the small but growing share of all teachers who are both newly hired and in their first year of teaching and in the substantial shares of teachers who quit who are certified and experienced. It is even more difficult for high-poverty schools to retain credentialed teachers.

Low pay is another key issue: Read section on relative pay here 

Teachers also face challenging working conditions Read here

The EPI Report concludes with a series of overarching principles,

Overarching principles for how to approach the teacher shortage problem

  • Understand that the teacher shortage is caused by multiple factors and thus can only be tackled with a comprehensive set of long-term solutions.
  • Understand that the complexity of the challenge calls for coordinated efforts of multiple stakeholders.
  • Increase public investments in education.
  • Treat teachers as professionals and teaching as a profession.

Specific proposals in the policy agenda to address the teacher shortage

  • Raise teacher pay to attract new teachers and keep teachers in their schools and the profession.
  • Elevate teacher voice, and nurture stronger learning communities to increase teachers’ influence and sense of belonging.
  • Lower the barriers to teaching that affect teachers’ ability to do their jobs and their morale.
  • Design professional supports that strengthen teachers’ sense of purpose, career development, and effectiveness.

The EPI report (2019) precedes the last two years of pandemic.

In May, 2021 Education Week released the results of interviews with hundreds of teachers across the country (Read here). Increasing numbers of teachers are considering leaving, the stress is unbearable, and they love their students and are impacted by the politically motivated attack on teachers.

New York City responded to the teacher shortage issue twenty years ago. The Teaching Fellows Program is an alternative certification pathway created to attract second career individuals. The CUNY colleges provide an accelerated certification program in shortage areas. (Read about the history and details of the program here). 20% of new teachers this year are graduates of the Teaching Fellows Program.

New York City also funds a Men Teach Program directed at attracting men of color into teaching. Candidates are recruited from among freshman and sophomores in the four year CUNY colleges. (Read here)

Unfortunately New York State does not fund comparable programs.

The AFT National Taskforce on Teacher and School Staff Shortages will look across the nation, as you would expect the “shortages” issue varies widely. The states are in the process of determining how to allocate the federal dollars and attracting and retaining teachers and other vital school personnel would be an excellent use of the federal dollars.

Soon to be Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks: Peering Over a Precipice into Swirling Waters

Mayor-elect Adams, we can delete the “elect” in two weeks, Adams will be sworn in at the iconic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn and the work will begin.

Adams selected a close friend, David Banks as chancellor, the name New York City uses in lieu of superintendent. Banks is the CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports five grades 6-12  schools targeting young men of color. New York City has a unique school management structure, most schools are clustered in geographic districts; however, about 10% of schools work with not-for-profits with greater autonomy. A teacher union program, PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity for Schools for Excellence), encourages bottom up innovation, programs designed at the school level.

Before he is formally in his position Banks is being panned, the low performance of some of his schools, his lack of experience and his selection of a (de)former as Deputy Chancellor.

Back in my union rep days I was the union guy in a school district in Brooklyn. The school board was about to pick a new superintendent and a principal contacted me, the selectee was a “hardass,” a “my way or the highway” type. I mentioned my concerns at a school meeting and a teacher said they were in the same parish, she knows him well and works with him on many projects, she painted a totally different picture.

I was outside of the hearing room waiting to defend a teacher when superintendent called me over,

“Peter, how can you defend him, he’s a terrible teacher?”

I blurted back, “You hired him, you gave him tenure and the union doesn’t choose its clients.”

A few weeks later he instructed principals to include the school union rep in all new teacher interviews and began to read principal observation reports.  He said they were useless.

We worked on a variety of teacher observations options within schools.

We “agreed to disagree” on some issues, an occasional grievance, and a total commitment to shared decision-making and school-based budgeting.  He was in schools constantly, met with all the school union leaders monthly, and, some principals loved the autonomy and others hated the “required” collaboration.

The lesson: don’t jump to early conclusions.

Banks has a steep learning curve ahead, very steep.

His comments to Marcia Kramer reignites the decades old “reading wars,”

Why are 65% of Black and Brown students not reaching proficiency? The answer, surprising. Banks told Kramer it goes back to something so very basic: How kids are taught to read.

It seems the city changed tactics 25 years ago, and he thinks it doesn’t work.

“We went to kind of this thing called ‘balanced literacy.’ ‘Balanced literacy’ has not worked for Black and Brown children,” Banks said.

“So what do you want to do?” Kramer asked.

“We’re going to go back to a phonetic approach to teaching. We’re going to ensure that our kids can read by the third grade,” Banks said. “That’s been a huge part of the dysfunction.”

John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia University and NY Times writer has been sharply critical of “balanced literacy” (See recent op ed here).

Education Week featured a recent report on reading programs that found the two most popular reading programs, balanced literacy programs ineffective. (Read here).

Balanced literacy programs are used in many schools across the city and some schools are totally committed to them, the “reading wars” never seem to end and are passionate. Is it the program or the teacher?

Do we have data on student achievement by race and reading program?

The teacher union led a curriculum audit prior to COVID, collecting reading and math programs used on every grade in every school, the purpose was to create professional development aligning the programs with the New Generation Learning Standards, the standards now the basis of state tests. Maybe Banks should give union prez Mulgrew a call?

Adams/Banks voiced support for a remote option for parents: in the middle of the school year?  The academic outcomes for students in remote classrooms was poor, returning to remote classrooms, especially for children struggling in regular classrooms is antithetical to everything Adams/Banks espouse.

Banks “solution” for the paucity of students of color in the legacy Specialized High Schools is to create more gifted schools. Unfortunately gifted schools, meaning schools with entrance screens (reading/math scores. Interviews, portfolios) “segregate” schools by ability and effectively decrease achievement scores in the non-screened surrounding schools.

It appears unlikely that Banks will reinstitute the centrally administered gifted and talent testing beginning with pre-k. The Renzulli Method was widely utilized by schools in the pre-Bloomberg days prior to the gifted and talented testing and merits a close examination.

Unfortunately Omicron is hovering over the school system. The NY Times Coronavirus tracker jumps every day as do “positives” in schools, classroom closings are increasing and Governor Hochul is preparing for the surge. 

The best laid plans  …..

By the time Adams is Mayor the question may be “when do we move back to remote instruction?”

Before Adams/Banks jump off the end of the diving board its important to check the depth of the pool.

How are our schools doing?

The Council of Great City Schools, a highly regarded research institution says pretty well,

Read “Mirrors or Windows: How Well Do Large City Public Schools Overcome the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers?” (June, 2021) here

  • Students in Large City Schools narrowed the gap with students in All Other Schools in both reading and math at fourth and eighth grade levels between 2003 and 2019 by a third to a half, depending on grade and subject.
  • After considering differences in poverty, language status, race/ethnicity, disability, educational resources in the home, and parental education, Large City Schools had reading and mathematics scores on NAEP that were significantly above statistical expectations at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels in 2019 (the latest year NAEP was administered) and in most years since 2009.

Before Adams/Banks spin out this idea and that idea maybe they should read a report from the Research Alliance for NYC Schools, yes, New York City has an organization, yes David, you or a designee serve on the board and they laid out a framework, Blueprint for Advancing Equity in NYC Schools: Overview of Priorities for the Next Administration (Read one-pager here)

Adams, Banks and Keechant Sewell, the new police commissioner should understand that some solutions may be beyond their ability to address. Unemployment in New York City is extremely high, over 9%, and in spite of unemployment tax revenues due to a booming Wall Street are high; however, too many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet and unemployment impacts schools and crime.

COVID, crime, homelessness, climate change …..

In 1969, Breslin ran for president of the New York City Council in tandem with Norman Mailer, who was seeking election as mayor, on the unsuccessful independent 51st State ticket advocating secession of the city from the rest of the state. A memorable quote of his from the experience: “I am mortified to have taken part in a process that required bars to be closed.” When asked what he would do if he won he relied, “Ask for a recount.”

Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks: Hopefully Not Geppetto and Pinocchio

Mayor-elect Adams is about to jump into the bubbling cauldron of the NYC mayoralty, a cauldron from which no mayor has emerged unscathed nor has moved on to any other elected office. Bloomberg’s run for president was disastrous, Mayor de Blasio, considering a run for governor is polling in the single digits.

Adams will inherit his predecessor’s budget and his predecessor’s policies, from vaccination requirements, (the daily Coronavirus tracker jumped 23% on Tuesday) to the future of Gifted and Talented classes to the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), school integration (School Diversity Task Force Report) and the current reducing class size issue before the City Council.

Adams has announced his first appointment, David Banks, the CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, a close friend of the mayor-elect who has been waiting in the wings for months.

Adams and Banks have a long, close personal relationship: will Adams say “David, we’ve known each other for years, I trust you, run the school system,” or will Banks simply carry out the political agenda of his friend?

 Adams was vague during his campaign; candidates want to throw a wide net. Since his election Adams has avoided discussion of specific policies and his 100 member education transition team, that’s right, 100 member does not include union leadership or noted education thought leaders. It does include Dan Weisberg, who had a contentious relationship with unions during his tenure in the Bloomberg administration and even more contentious as leader of The New Teacher Project and Eliza Shapiro, of the NY Times reports Weisberg will the First Deputy Chancellor.

Banks is a big personality and extremely likeable,

“He’s intensely, intensely passionate about this work, he’s deeply knowledgeable, and he’s also pragmatic,” said Mark Dunetz, president of New Visions for Public Schools, an organization that supports a network of district and charter schools. Banks is “the type of leader that I think a system as complex and large as ours needs.”

The NYTimes reports,

Mr. Banks said his first priorities would include expanding early childhood education options for the city’s youngest children, improving career pathways for older students, and combating students’ trauma.

Without sweeping changes, Mr. Banks said, “you’re just going to play around in the margins.”

No one would disagree, and, isn’t Banks describing the current administration?

The current Eagle Academy schools look like charter schools, kids wear uniforms, the schools are public schools and have higher graduation rates than surrounding schools; on the downside three of the Eagle middle schools are cited by the state for extremely low achievement. The jump from running five 6-12 schools for young men of color to a 1.1 million student system is monumental.

For the eight years of de Blasio the teacher and principal unions have had an amicable relationship, negotiated two collective bargaining agreements; yes, battled over COVID protocols, and partners in the fights for school funding.  The Renewal initiative, an excellent idea, target the hundred lowest achieving schools and provide significant additional funding as well as substantial funding for mental health services. Both the programs were poorly run and sharply criticized. (Read Renewal criticism here and Thrive criticism here).

Can Banks build on the de Blasio initiatives and improve the implementation?

Banks will have an awkward entry: Who do you keep? Who do you replace? Building an airplane while in flight is challenging and he has to hit the ground running.

He inherits the unresolved de Blasio issues: will he move forward aggressively or seek a new pathway? And, the City and the UFT are scheduled to begin the next round of contract negotiations.

If he hasn’t done so already I would recommend Banks read Michael Fullan’s, “The right drivers for whole system success,” see a selection from an interview with Fullan

Interviewer: Let’s start with change and some of the challenges of leading school district improvement in an era of change. Why do people resist change and what do you feel distinguishes the successful organizations that have strong capacities for change?

Michael Fullan: I think I first want to put the focus on what we call ‘whole system reform’, which is either the whole district or sometimes even bigger, as in the whole state or providence. It’s not one school at a time; it’s a whole set of schools. The ones that we find are successful have superintendents that have put the focus on the achievement agenda and then, instead of focusing on what I call negative accountability, they focus on capacity building. Capacity building in this instance means developing a teacher’s ability at the school level to work together in a collective capacity to zero in on making the changes, monitoring the results, and making corrections. It’s that kind of really strong focus, and there are other elements, but it definitely is leadership and focus as it builds capacity.

Perhaps time to mull over Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Billions of Dollars Later Researchers find Teacher Evaluation Reforms have no Positive Effects on Student Outcomes

I was working on a Network Team in New York City, about a dozen of us “supporting” twenty-five schools who had chosen to work with a specific network leader. The Bloomberg administration selected Joel Klein, an attorney with no education experience as chancellor and Klein morphed from reorganization to reorganization, from ten mega districts each with hundreds of schools evolving in affinity networks, schools selecting with whom they wanted to work, sort of educational speed dating.

Charlotte Danielson’s Frameworks, published in the nineties, was taught in teacher preparation programs and the rumor was going to be adopted by New York City as the teacher evaluation tool.

The network leader invited Danielson to make a presentation to principals and staff, for me, her Frameworks were much too complicated. At the end of the presentation I asked Danielson, “Judge Potter Stewart said you can’t define pornography but you know it when you see it, isn’t it the same for effective teaching?” (See Justice Stewart’s opinion here).

Danielson demurred, rather adamantly.

For many years I was the teacher union guy on Schools Under Registration Review teams. The lowest performing schools in the state were cited and a team led by a Regional Superintendent visited the school, from Monday to Thursday we reviewed data, interviewed students, teacher, and school leadership, observed most of the school staff and wrote a detailed findings/recommendation report based on a state template.  I observed scores of teachers.

The vast majority of teachers were hard-working, conscientious, dedicated and pretty much on their own. Teacher observations were few and far between; schools placed staff development way down the list. School leadership was overwhelmed with discipline, covering classes of absent teachers, filling vacancies, and the innumerable ukases from the District Offices.

Occasionally I’d see a dud, and occasionally a star, working in a SURR school was challenging, and frequently characterized by ineffective leadership.

Our reports were well-written and ignored.

National research reports rarely impact national policy, the Widget Effect report( 2008) from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) was the exception.

If teachers are so important, why do we treat them like widgets?

Effective teachers are the key to student success, yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.

The Widget Effect is a wide-ranging report that studies teacher evaluation and dismissal in four states and 12 diverse districts and reflects survey responses from approximately 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators.

Key Findings:

  • All teachers are rated good or great. Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, making it impossible to identify truly exceptional teachers.
  • Professional development is inadequate. Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive any specific feedback on improving their performance in their last evaluation.
  • Novice teachers are neglected. Low expectations for beginning teachers translate into benign neglect in the classroom and a toothless tenure process.
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed. Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years.

The report gives policymakers and school leaders recommendations for acquiring better information about instructional quality to give great teachers the recognition they deserve.

The Report exploded across the education landscape. Teacher evaluation was at the core of all innovations. The Obama administration’s $4 billion Race to the Top competitive state grants required teacher evaluation tied to pupil achievement and most states followed suit. School districts created merit pay plans.

The Denver plan, Paycomp, was a model for Race to the Top; the pay-for-performance plan resulted in a teacher strike in 2019. Teachers demanded salary increases not “bonuses” based on obscure formulas.

A new acronym entered our vocabulary, VAM, value-added measurement, a mathematical formula, an algorithm comparing student achievement to similar students across a district and “grading” teachers based on student growth scores. In New York State, called Annual Professional Performance Review and (APPR) was embedded into state education law.

The Gates Foundation embarked on a six year $500 project called Measures of Effective Teaching, in four school districts,

school sites agreed to design new teacher-evaluation systems that incorporated classroom-observation rubrics and a measure of growth in student achievement. They also agreed to offer individualized professional development based on teachers’ evaluation results, and to revamp recruitment, hiring, and placement. Schools also implemented new career pathways for effective teachers and awarded teachers with bonuses for good performance.

Six years later the lead author of the report opines,

“The initiative itself tried to pull a bunch of levers to have a big impact on student performance,” said Brian Stecher, a RAND researcher and the lead author of the report. “The sites did in fact modify all of these levers, some more than others, but in the end, there were no big payoffs in terms of improved graduation [rates] or achievement of students in general, and low-income and minority students in particular.”

Read the final report here.

Charlotte Danielson is rethinking the use of her Frameworks and agrees with me, re the deleterious impact of the Widget Effect Report,

The immediate challenge is that those with the responsibility to ensure good teaching in schools—primarily building administrators—don’t always have the skill to differentiate great teaching from that which is merely good, or perhaps even mediocre. This idea was highlighted in “The Widget Effect,” a 2009 report from the organization TNTP that had enormous influence on the design of Race to the Top, the federal initiative that required states to implement rigorous systems of teacher evaluation to qualify for billions of dollars in federal grant money.

Danielson is sharply critical of the educational establishment,

There is also little consensus on how the profession should define “good teaching.” Many state systems require districts to evaluate teachers on the learning gains of their students. These policies have been implemented despite the objections from many in the measurement community regarding the limitations of available tests and the challenge of accurately attributing student learning to individual teachers.

Even when personnel policies define good teaching as the teaching practices that promote student learning and are validated by independent research, few jurisdictions require their evaluators to actually demonstrate skill in making accurate judgments. But since evaluators must assign a score, teaching is distilled to numbers, ratings, and rankings, conveying a reductive nature to educators’ professional worth and undermining their overall confidence in the system.

I’m deeply troubled by the transformation of teaching from a complex profession requiring nuanced judgment to the performance of certain behaviors that can be ticked off on a checklist. In fact, I (and many others in the academic and policy communities) believe it’s time for a major rethinking of how we structure teacher evaluation to ensure that teachers, as professionals, can benefit from numerous opportunities to continually refine their craft.

A just released paper, The Effect of Teacher Evaluation on Achievement and Attainment: Evidence from Statewide Reform (12/2021) reinforces Danielson’s concerns, the movement from treating teaching as a complex activity to checking off boxes on a checklist. Joshua Bleiberg and his colleagues looked at eight years of data (2009-17) and asked: how did the implementation of teacher evaluation reforms impact student achievement? The Report’s answer: it didn’t.

Education Week reports,

More than a decade ago, policymakers made a multi-billion-dollar bet that strengthening teacher evaluation would lead to better teaching, which in turn would boost student achievement. But new research shows that, overall, those efforts failed: Nationally, teacher evaluation reforms over the past decade had no impact on student test scores or educational attainment.

The research is the latest indictment of a massive push between 2009 and 2017, spurred by federal incentives, philanthropic investments, and a nationwide drive for accountability in K-12 education, to implement high-stakes teacher evaluation systems in nearly every state.

“There was a tremendous amount of time and billions of dollars invested in putting these systems into place, and they didn’t have the positive effects reformers were hoping for,” said Joshua Bleiberg, an author of the study…

The evaluation reforms were largely unpopular among teachers and their unions, who argued that incorporating certain metrics, like student test scores, was unfair and would drive good educators out of the profession. Yet proponents—including the Obama administration—argued that tougher evaluations could identify, and potentially weed out, the weakest teachers while elevating the strongest ones.

 “It took away the overall focus on the kid and the overall focus on teaching,” said Erin Scholes, an innovation coordinator … “I felt like [the reforms] hit the science of teaching rather than the art of teaching and tried to fit everyone in the same box.”

Researchers found no positive effects on student outcomes

A team of researchers from Brown and Michigan State Universities and the Universities of Connecticut and North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed the timing of states’ adoption of the reforms alongside district-level student achievement data from 2009 to 2018 on standardized math and English/language arts test scores. They also analyzed the impact of the reforms on longer-term student outcomes, including high school graduation and college enrollment. The researchers controlled for the adoption of other teacher accountability measures and reform efforts taking place around the same time, and found that their results remained unchanged.

They found no evidence that, on average, the reforms had even a small positive effect on student achievement or educational attainment.

The study’s authors noted that the design and implementation of the reforms fell short of the recognized best practices for performance management systems …

… implementation proved difficult in most places, with most teachers still receiving satisfactory ratings under the new evaluation systems. Performance-based dismissals were still rare, and states that linked evaluation ratings to compensation often offered only small bonuses or set the bar so low that most teachers qualified.

Also, the reforms decreased job satisfaction among new teachers who felt like they had little autonomy to do their best work, the paper noted. And they added significant demands to administrators’ already burdensome workload.

“It was really the worst of all worlds,” said Michael Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank that advocated for more teacher accountability. “It was just a big paperwork exercise. It led to a lot of anxiety and bad morale. Not only did it have no findings [of positive effects on student outcomes], it had real-world consequences that were almost entirely negative.”

Will US Secretary of Education Cardona say Arne Duncan was wrong; the emphasis should be on creating more Community Schools?


If you ask bureaucracies why you’re carrying out a specific policy the answer is “… that’s the way we’ve always done it,” in other words Newton’s First Law of Motion drives policy decisions.

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

The “unbalanced force” could be the President’s Build Back Better legislation.

Stay Tuned

Mayoral Control or an Elected School Board: How Should Education in New York City Be Led?

Why shouldn’t mayors be in charge of schools?  Mayors select the police chief, the head of parks, sanitation, all city agencies and fund schools, why do we need school boards? On the other hand shouldn’t educational decisions be free of politics? Shouldn’t parents and teachers play a role in education decision-making? Shouldn’t educational decisions be made to benefit children not enhance the popularity of the mayor?

Elected school boards give the citizenry a voice in decision-making, a vital part of the democratic process; however dollars drive elections. In Citizens United (2010) the Supreme Court ruled that political contributions are speech and any limit on contributions violates the First Amendment. Millions of dollars poured into Los Angeles school board elections from billionaire charter school supporters and elected a pro-charter school board. New York City could end up with a pro-charter, anti-union elected school board.

The mayoral control law contained a sunset provision, the governance would revert to the system prior to the mayoral control law if not reauthorized, read a detailed discussion of the law here.

An increasing number of large cities have moved to a mayoral control of schools starting with Boston in the 90’s and New York City in 2002. Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and others have followed suit.

In the early years mayoral control was praised by scholars, The Education Mayor: Improving America’s Schools  (2007) Kenneth Wong and others took a deep dive into mayor control,

• What does school governance look like under mayoral leadership?
• How does mayoral control affect school and student performance?
• What are the key factors for success or failure of integrated governance?
• How does mayoral control effect practical changes in schools and classrooms?

The results of their examination indicate that, 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

Mayoral control has come under increasing attack from a range of stakeholders, especially parents and teachers, the core constituency of schools.

New York City has never had an elected school board, from the creation of New York City in 1898, “the Great Consolidation,” until the late 60’s a policy board selected through a screening panel process picked a superintendent, an experienced educator from within the system.

In 60’s the system faltered, rising cries for school integration, opposition to the war in Vietnam and back-to-back teacher strikes (67/68). Riots swept across cities, Watts, Detroit, Newark, and cities appeared to be on the cusp of racial warfare. Some sociologists advocated that inner city communities be given power over their own lives, a precursor of the current Defund the Police movement; give communities control over schools in their communities (Read a more detailed discussion on a prior blog post here).

The NYS legislature passed a law decentralizing the system, an appointed seven member salaried, staffed school board, each borough president would appoint a member and mayor appoint two members. The city divided into thirty-two nine-member elected school boards with the authority to hire superintendents and principals and determine curriculum. (The power to hire superintendents was revoked in the mid-nineties). Decentralization became a patronage pool for local electeds and was plagued by corruption, especially in the highest poverty districts; the power structure ignored the corruption. A few districts thrived with deeply involved members and should have been models for the remainder of the city.

In 2001 Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor, and, with widespread support, called for mayoral control of schools and the legislature/governor agreed, mayor control legislation became law.

If the law is not reauthorized by June 30th following the election of a mayor the system reverts to the previous iteration, decentralization. The mayoral system did retain a school board, nine of the fifteen members appointed by the mayor (Panel for Education Priorities) and local school boards (Community Education Councils) made up of parent association leaders with limited authority, very limited authority.

Mayor-elect Adams is about to introduce his selection for chancellor.

The first week in January the state legislature will convene, Governor Hochel will give her State of the State message, later in January release the Executive Budget and some time before mid-June adjournment reauthorize mayoral control, or not.

After Mayor deBlasio’s re-election the Republican controlled State Senate held mayoral control hostage, trying to extract more charter schools. A New York Times ripped the Republicans and at a special session over the summer mayoral control was reauthorized. The teacher union, with a few caveats supported reauthorization.

One would think that with democrats in control of New York State mayoral control would be reauthorized without opposition. Actually dissatisfaction with soon to be ex-mayor has resulted in calls for changes in the law; from a totally new law, creating an elected school board, to changing the representation on the PEP to eliminate the mayoral majority. On the horizon is a bruising primary election to select a democratic gubernatorial candidate as well as a tough election in November. The mayoral control law could easily become a divisive campaign issue.

A few years ago the Assembly Education Committee, acknowledging the sunset provisions in the law, held hearings.

I testified, read my testimony here, Diane Ravitch submitted testimony, read here, as did other advocates, Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matter) here and Kamala Karman (NYC Opt Out) here.

The growing list of candidates for governor will all have their own views, and rubber-stamping a reauthorization may not be so easy. A democratic Governor, Assembly and Senate leaders does not presage an unamended reauthorization.  While the legislative session sits in Albany the candidates in the gubernatorial democratic June primary will duel, Republicans waiting for the November general election and hoping to seize the governorship, mayoral control may emerge as a contentious election issue.

As a history teacher I was reminded of the evils of factions in the political arena, and Madison’s warning to the People of New York should be required reading today.

To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.

The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected.

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

Is New York State preparing students to benefit from the $1T Infrastructure Law?

On Monday President Biden signed the $1 Trillion Infrastructure bill into law; that’s 1.0 x ten to the twelth power – twelve zeros. The dollars will flow into every state for the next decade and create millions and millions of jobs. From highways, bridges, ports  to broadband the projects will span the nation, New York City is considering rebuilding the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a transportation tunnel under the Hudson, the decisions will take a few years to determine and plan

Hovering over the plan is a unique problem: Does the nation have enough skilled workers to execute the projects?

My neighborhood bakery is closing three days a week, it can’t find staff. Last week was my first philharmonic concert, we usually consume a post-concert snack, the restaurant, across the street from Lincoln Center was closing, “sorry,” the manager told us, and “…we’re short staff.”

How are our schools responding?  Are we increasing Career and Technical Education (CTE) seats?  Are college teacher preparation programs training more CTE teachers?  Is the State Education Department (SED) adding more CTE seats? Is the SED “acknowledging” the problem?

John McWhorter is a Columbia University professor of linguistics and a New York Times columnist, author is a new book; “Woke Racism” and has been all over the news. In a recent interview McWhorter was asked for national policy recommendations, he responded with: end the punitive drug laws and increase student opportunities in CTE programs.

I was speaking with a middle school principal in a very high poverty neighborhood; he tries to get as many of his student as possible to apply to CTE high schools.  “My kids need jobs, they are victims of multigenerational poverty; the next step after high school must be a job.”

For decades upon decades we heralded the advantages of college, schools were divided into college bound cohorts and “others.”  CTE programs, called vocational education, was for the left behind, and, the New York State CTE regulations are unchanged, unwieldy and unsuccessful.

How many students in New York State receive high school diplomas with “CTE endorsements”?  The SED website isn’t helpful.  Can a parent go to a site and find CTE programs in their neighborhood, specifics about the programs and an application procedure?   Not that I’m aware of …..

The NYS Board of Regents and the State Education Department is beginning  a lengthy process to review “Graduation Measures,” and a major overhaul of academic standards (yes, again) called the Next Generation Standards.

Read “Graduation Measures” here

Read Standards and Assessment Workgroup” here

Are we repeating the Common Core State Standards disaster?  Hopefully not; however, dropping these massive changes at the end of a long, long day is not a great start.

In an August blog I compared the European approach, in many countries half of kids are in what we would call CTE programs, with a seamless flow from school to work, Read here

Chiefs for Change, a national organization, addresses the issue in a paper, “Let’s Get to Work,” and examines changes in a number of cities that can be models (Read Report here) The Report begins,

In today’s world, good jobs follow good education. Yet as technological innovation and a shifting economy bring rapid changes to the workplace, America has fallen far behind in preparing students for the future. It’s a problem that threatens individual young people and the American economy, and it marks an under-recognized front in the battle for equity of educational opportunity.

And continues,

Stuck in a false and outmoded choice between career preparation and rigorous academics, the United States has shunned the kind of coherent, intensive preparation that most students in Germany, Finland, and Switzerland have. The cost to individual students and families, and to the nation’s economy, is enormous. Improving the quality and reach of career and technical education (CTE) must be one of the new top priorities for the nation’s schools,

Some of the report’s key recommendations urge states and districts to:

  • Build a truly seamless transition for all students into postsecondary education and career training,
  • Improve the quality and rigor of CTE pathways and courses,
  • Expand work-based learning, such as internships and apprenticeships,
  • Expand and improve support for students and families,
  • Ensure equity for all students,

Is NYS learning from other states and upgrading their CTE program?

We’ll see …

SED has resumed holding “Graduation Measures” meetings across the state, probably thousands of comments, a two-year cycle leading to decisions, Should the Regents Exams still be required for graduation? Are the Safety Nets sufficient? Can projects replace Regents and still maintain high standards? Should course sequences be retained? Changed?  All important decisions, Should the process take two years?

The phasing in of the Next Generation Standards and the new testing regimen, changing standards in all grades and all subjects is a sea change that will impact instruction in every school. When the dust clears will we have a more impactful state education system?

NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is called the Nations’ Report Card, New York State, to be polite, scores have been mediocre; ultimately what doe NAEP scores mean?

CTE graduates can step into jobs in an economy with increasing demands; we have an obligation to prepare our students.

How will Mayor Adams Lead/Manage NYC Schools?

On November 2nd Eric Adams was elected the 110th mayor of New York City’ with an overwhelming democratic voter base and an underfunded opponent the winner was a foregone conclusion. Mayor-elect Adams appointed United Way CEO Sheena Wright as head of his transition team and will begin to build the team that will lead New York City for the next four years.

Both of Adams’s predecessors stumbled in trying to manage the million plus student Department of Education.

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 [Bloomberg]: 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.

Eight years later Bloomberg’s successor is facing the same sharp criticism. The City Journal writes,

Behind the system’s near-collapse is the failure of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s educational approach. Its two pillars—the search for one-size-fits-all solutions and the belief that educational quality could not be expanded but only redistributed—were not only wrong under normal circumstances but especially misaligned with the challenges posed by the pandemic. The mayor’s policies have harmed those most in need—and undermined the viability of Gotham as a place for families to raise children, with implications for the city’s long-term social and economic health.

Rather than parsing the successes and failures of the last two mayors let’s take a look at the largest education edifices in the state, the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State Education Department (SED).

SUNY has 64 campuses and almost 400,000 students spread across the state, from community colleges to four year colleges to university centers and is governed by a Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is the governing body and consists of 18 members, 15 of whom are appointed by the Governor, by and with consent of the New York State Senate for fixed terms. The Board is currently led by Merryl Tisch, who previously served as the leader of the Board of Regents.

Governor Cuomo used the SUNY Board to reward his perceived friends and punish his perceived enemies. Teacher unions were a barb that nettled the governor, after the failure to endorse him in 2014 the 2015 budget increased service time needed for tenure from three to four years and a number of charter school perks.

The original charter school law (12/98) designated the Board of Regents as the authorizing entity 

 ,The board of regents shall be the only sole entity to issue a charter

The governor amended the law adding,

The board of regents and the board of trustees of the state university of New York
The SUNY Board of Trustees created the Charter School Institute, an extremely charter friendly organization and has become the primary charter school authorizer in the state. The Board of Trustees decided it can usurp the teacher certification role of the Board of Regents and could certify their own teachers.

The New York State courts sustained a suit by the Board of Regents. (Read description here) and squelched the attempt to enlarge the power of the SUNY Board.

Jim Malatras is a close friend of the former governor. I met him in 2013-14 at the Cuomo Commission meetings, he is smart and collaborative, I was impressed and the commission report excellent (Read ); unfortunately many of the recommendations are unrealized.

Malatras resurfaced as the director of the Rockefeller Institute for Government, an Albany-based think tank. A few years later as President of SUNY Empire , one of the smallest SUNY campuses and offers primarily online courses with only 165 full-time faculty. In August 2020 the Chancellorship of SUNY opened up and surprise, surprise, Jim Malatras, without any search, was appointed by the SUNY Board as Chancellor, the SUNY faculty Senate complained loudly   as did the student organizations, his defenders noted his close ties to the governor as an asset.h

A year later with Cuomo gone the closeness to Cuomo was no longer an asset and his involvement in Cuomo data “massaging” resulted in cries for the SUNY Trustees to fire Malatras, read a NY Post guest op ed by Fred Smith here.

Will Adams mirror Cuomo and use his office to reward his allies and punish perceived enemies? 

The City University of New York (CUNY) has 25 campuses across the city; an enrollment of 275,000 students and is governed by a Board of Trustees, fifteen members appointed by the governor, William Thompson, the former Comptroller of New York City as well as President of the Board of Education serves as chairman.

Felix Matos Rodriquez is the Chancellor of CUNY; he previously served as President of Hostos Community College and Queens College in the CUNY system, a graduate of Yale (BA) and Columbia (Phd) with a long academic career.

The Wall Street Journal ranks CCNY the “best value” college in the nation and six of the top ten colleges in the nation measuring “social mobility,” moving incoming students from poverty to the middle class a decade later are CUNY colleges.

How will the CUNY model impact Adams?

Will Adams mirror the CUNY model, select a leader from within with impeccable credentials and a board leader with a sparkling resume and political smarts, and, allow his selectees to run the school system.

The seventeen member Board of Regents oversees the State Department of Education (NYSED), 700 school districts and 4400 schools. The board is “elected” by a joint meeting of both houses of the state legislature, in reality by the Speaker of the Assembly as democrats far outnumber republicans; the board selects a leader, called the chancellor, and hires a state commissioner.  The governor has no role. The Board sets policy, establishes graduation requirements, teacher preparation requirements and a host of other regulations; however, superintendents, principals and teachers don’t work for the SED, they work for elected local school boards. Curriculum and instruction are local discretion, except for the lowest achieving schools.  The Board issued a 189-page policy paper, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (Read here), urging school districts to implement the policies and acknowledges these decisions are made at the district level.

Should Adams support both decision-making at the local level, for example, the 147 schools in the Affinity District  and work closely with low achieving schools in a Chancellor’s District model?

In other words should Adams select highly qualified educational leaders and allow them to run the schools, or, like his predecessors micromanage for political benefit?

A first Adams announcement:

Should a school named after a slaveholder , an anti-Semite and anti-Catholic Dutch governor have his name removed from the school?

Over the next six weeks the Adams administration will be rolled out – stay tuned.