The Suspension Conundrum: Are Restorative Justice Practices Too Late? Can We Identify Students Prone to Committing Anti-Social Acts and Intervene Earlier?

From the presidential campaign to city politics, across the nation the “school to prison pipeline” is near the top of every educational agenda.

The Clinton Campaign Education Issues website,

… too many communities, student discipline is overly harsh—and these harsh measures disproportionately affect African American students and those with the greatest economic, social, and academic needs

There is no question that zero tolerance policies can be counterproductive; however, suspensions in New York City do not bar students from school. The Department has a detailed 35-page Discipline Code that clearly and explicitly explains each violation and the appropriate action. Principal suspensions, from one to five school days, results in a removal from the classroom and the placement in what is usually called a SAVE room in the building;  the student receives, in theory, academic services and counseling and the parent is required to attend a conference.  Serious breaches of the Discipline Code: weapons possession, fighting, etc., can result in a superintendent suspension, which is usually 30, 60 or 90 days and can be up to a year. A disciplinary hearing is required, the student can be represented by an advocate; the parent is entitled to all the documentation and a hearing officer makes a final determination. Students who receive superintendent suspensions attend alternative sites with low class size and counseling.

. Incarcerated youth, youth in drug treatment facilities, young people seeking high school equivalency diplomas, all are placed through Referral Centers located around the city into appropriate education settings

.Read the suspension procedures in full here.

As the school to pipeline trope has grown the Department has tightened the suspension faucet. The number of suspensions has dropped sharply. The Daily News reports,

The number of city school kids suspended and arrested continues to drop, according to data released Monday.

Suspensions dropped by 15.6%, from 44,626 in the 2014-2015 school year to 37,647 in the 2015-2016 school year, the city Education Department said.

The drop is due to several factors, including the expansion of “therapeutic crisis interventions,” as well as the addition of 250 guidance counselors over the last two years and 100 mental health consultants this year, DOE officials said.

The teacher union president, Michael Mulgrew and the Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Foundation,  a right of center think tank are on the same page, criticizing the tightening of the suspension faucet without extensive counseling interventions at schools.

The Department, and just about everyone else has jumped on the restorative justice band wagon as an alternative school-based intervention. Both The Atlantic and the New York Times  have lengthy articles praising, with reservations, restorative justice programs.

The restorative justice enthusiasm reflects a core issue – we intervene after the horses have left the barn. Much of system is based on identifying failing students or failing schools or failing school districts  and providing some sort of, for lack of a better term, a restorative practice:  We are teaching resuscitation techniques rather than identifying the non-swimmers and teaching them to swim.

Instead of harping on the pipeline let’s take a deeper dive: Can we identify the characteristics of students who were suspended? For example, Kim Nauer and her team at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School identified 17 poverty risk load factors; some in school and others in the surrounding community. Can we construct a predictive metric? Will students with 6 or 8 or 10 of the risk load factors be more likely to be suspended? Which particular factor most closely correlates with suspensions?

Or, we can ask the kindergarten teacher.

My wife, a kindergarten teacher used to say: by November she could trace out the life path of students, a few she could alter, too many she couldn’t.  In my union rep days one of my favorite schools was the annex to PS 269. A pre-2 building, about ten classes on a grade, run by an AP and the teachers. The staff was both dedicated, really, really smart and feisty. One year they worked out a plan: the kindergarten teachers would select the 10 most difficult boys on the grade and assign them to the teacher who designed the plan. The other teachers agreed to accept one extra kid – the program didn’t cost additional dollars. At the end of the year the teacher, who has “the knack,” had turned most of the miscreants into upstanding citizens. Master teachers create miracles – the staff simply worked out a plan to address what they saw as an issue. No grants, no superintendents, no staff developers, just empowered teachers and a smart assistant principal who trusted his staff.

The Pre-K for All program in New York City is an opportunity to identify and intervene when the kid is four-years old; community schools may have the resources to address the out of school, the community deficits that impact the poverty risk load.

An intervention that begins after the student has committed the anti-social act, the act that may require a suspension, is too late.

Restorative practices should be part of elementary classrooms, many teachers guide students in creating school rules, student courts and tribunals can be useful, whatever is comfortable for the staff, and has some sort of evaluation tool attached.  Suspensions must always be an option; there are some actions that are so egregious that a punishment is required. Actions must have consequences. I have been in too many schools in which the line in the sand kept moving until anarchy was the norm.

A teacher told me a fascinating story: One kid was bullying another kid in a public space – the kid pushed and pushed; the second kid punched the bullier in the face, splitting his lip.

The kids met with the principal and the counselor, told the behavior was unacceptable, they would have to attend counseling sessions, participate in restorative circles. The mother of the puncher was called into school and told the behavior was unacceptable and she must work with her son – the behavior could have very serious consequences. The mother interjected, she said the counselor didn’t live in her neighborhood, in her project. “If you back down you’re a victim, you can’t allow yourself to be bullied.”  The counselor insisted, the parent responded, “Let’s change residences for a month, you move into my project, I‘ll move into your house, we’ll see if you feel the same way.”

Neighborhoods that surround schools have cultures and neighborhood cultures impact the lives of the community. Schools have to acknowledge the culture, and work within the mores that surround the school.

The teacher who related the story said she learned to talk with kids, informally, every day. She learned that to bring the kids into your world you have to enter their world.

Headlines about declining suspension rates are lipstick on the proverbial pig.

Small Themed High Schools: Should Principals Be Permitted to Select Students? If So, What Happens to the Unwanted?

You may wonder: how does a story end up in the media?

The answer: the story is “pitched” to the media outlet by the communication staff, public relations company, consultants or “flacks” that the organization employs.

The job of the editor is to sift through the potential stories and assign a story to a reporter.

The world of journalism has changed and continues to change. Print media is retreating and electronic media rules; in New York City Chalkbeat and Schoolbook cover education while Politico and others cover education in addition to other topics. A range of blogs cover and/or comment on education; most are advocacy, Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education comments on education nationally, raises dollars and endorses candidates.

Whoever generated the Schoolbook story, “Theme High Schools Long to Find Interested Applicants,” deserves the fees they charged their client.

I worked for a not-for-profit that created and assisted small high schools; when we asked, “what can we do for you?” – The answer was: “How can we attract/enroll more academically able students” Basically – how can we game the system?

Bottom line: schools are “rated” on graduation rates and graduation rates are dependent on passing five regents exams, especially Algebra 1 and Global Studies – schools vie for the more academically able students.

The current high school admission system assures that schools will receive students with a range of academic abilities.

There three types of admission procedures: Specialized High Schools (exams required by state law), hundreds of screened schools, (principals choose applicants based on grades, or a portfolio or an audition) and limited screened schools (students who attended a school fair receive priority) and schools with a geographic zone. There are about 700 high schools in New York City.

In a month 8th graders will submit high school applications with up to twelve choices listed in priority order. In January principals receive a listing of kids who applied to their school, without any info on their choices by priority. The principals “match” students, make selections, they are advised to select 5x as many students as seats.  In the Schoolbook story the High School for Food and Finance received 16 applicants for each 9th grade slot and the High School for Design and Architecture, in the same building received 3 applicants for each slot.

Beth Fertig, an excellent reporter; however, in this instance did not research the article sufficiently.

Park West High School, the former school that now houses six small schools, was a failing high school; the school was placed on the Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) list, and, is one of the few SURR schools that actually began to resuscitate itself. The school received a grant and implemented the John Hopkins Talent Development Model – one of the most effective school reform models. I was on the review team that visited the school. It was impressive. The school created themed academies, teams of teachers, intensive remediation in the 9th grade, and, the UFT Chapter Leader and the Principal were on the same page. The SURR Team Leader wrote a glowing report – a few months later the Department announced it was closing the school. The school had a number of academies, one was a food program that was part of the original design of the school, and another was a “vertical transportation” program, elevator maintenance. The elevator maintenance program was highly successful, a partnership with the union, it placed graduates in the transit authority and in union jobs. I met a graduate five years out of the program, at the urging of vocational education teacher: “He’s my friend, you can tell him, how much did you make last year?”  The former student: “With overtime, $125,000.” The Department closed the school and the program.

The Bloomberg administration was closing schools and a school in midtown Manhattan was prime real estate in which to create small schools. Park West was doomed.

Fertig writes,

The Department of Education frequently boasts that 75 percent of eighth graders get one of their top three choices for high school. That sounds impressive for a system handling about 75,000 applications each fall. But teachers and principals at small schools with special themes told WNYC they wind up with students each year who don’t want to be there, while some who really do want to attend aren’t accepted.

“Every year I get dozens of emails from people begging me to get into the school, asking me why they didn’t get in,” said Nan Shipley, who chairs the board of a fund that supports Food and Finance. “That’s the question I would like to have answered.”

I would guess that the “fund” that supports the school, a very unusual situation, arranged for the story. Under the Bloomberg administration local electeds with clout in Gracie Mansion created screened schools, primarily schools in neighborhoods with potential Bloomberg voters.

Rashid Ferrod Davis, principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, also wrestles with that problem. His small, celebrated school in Crown Heights has a partnership with IBM; students can earn an associates degree. But Davis estimated just about 50 percent of his incoming students ranked the school among their top three choices. A lot of them also come in well below grade level.

“I don’t mind students who are low-performing coming out of middle school changing habits and behavior to finish high school,” he explained. “But I want that to be coupled with interest.”

How do you define “interest?”

Is “interest” synonymous with higher academic skills, excellent attendance in middle school, engaged parents?

Is Fertig advocating for a two-tiered system: schools for kids who show “interest” and everyone else?

When you ask a kid why they’re applying to a school the standard answer is, “My friends are going there.” If you ask a parent, “I want a safe school for my child.”

There are hundreds and hundreds of schools with what the school hopes is a glitzy name that will attract engaged students, aka, students with higher academic skills or the potential to engage in the school. In reality thirteen year olds will change their minds numerous times about a career. A handful of schools actually prepare kids for a job after high school, there are a growing number of vocational high schools; however the kid still has to pass four regents exams plus a rigorous assessment in their career path.

Once upon a time we created comprehensive high schools, schools with academic, commercial and vocational paths within the school, the school du jour is now a small, meaning about 400 students, with a theme, co-located in a building with four, five or six other small schools.

We now have hundreds of small themed high schools, both the elite or “boutique” schools that select students and the limited screened schools that would like to select students. Everyone would like to be screened, no one, or let’s say very few want to take the low skilled students, students who barely graduate middle school, kids with IEPs, kids who are English language learners.

Under the pre-Bloomberg days we had a triage system – schools that survived and prospered and schools that were struggling.  When I started teaching we had I believe 110 comprehensive high schools and about twenty vocational high schools.

The October, 2014 MDRC Small High School Study reports,

..  a rigorous multiyear study of small public high schools in New York City … confirm[s] that these schools, which serve mostly disadvantaged students of color, not only raise graduation rates by 9.4 percentage points, but they boost college enrollment by 8.4 percentage points. In addition, the small high schools achieve these gains at a lower cost per graduate than that of the high schools attended by students who had applied to these schools but were randomly assigned to other public high schools when small school slots were full.

How many students in small high schools graduated due to the widespread use of credit recovery and teachers grading their own student paper, practices that have since been sharply curtailed, we do not know.

I suspect the Fertig Schoolbook article is the opening volley in attempt to further screen applicants to the themed small high schools.

If the policies are changed: who will teach the “left behinds,” the kids who don’t show “interest,” or have a learning disability, or are an English language learner?

Well, there is the Sweeney Todd solution,

Can the Polls Be Wrong? Hillary is up 8%, No; Trump is up 1%, What’s Going On? Why Are the Polls Varying So Much?

With a week to go in the race to the White House the polls seem to be bouncing all over the place. Nate Silver at the fivethirtyeight blog predicting a narrowing but substantial Hillary lead,  The RealClearPolitics blog predicts a closer race with 149 electoral votes up for grabs.

Pollsters haven’t been doing too well this year – pollsters predicted a “yes” vote in the Brixet vote, the no’s won, in the Columbia FARC plebiscite, once again, the pollster predict “yes, the vote came out “no.”

I owe the following discussion to Howard Wainer,  Distinguished Research Scientist, National Board of Medical Examiners:

Pollsters identify a pool, a subset that reflects the larger population to be polled. We used to call the subset a stratified, random sample, a microcosm of the total population to be polled. The issue is the nonresponse rate which is gigantic. In a world of cell phones, potential responders can easily choose whether or not to answer a call. The nonresponse rate erodes the accuracy of the poll.

A group of physicists at The City College have developed an alternative method of predicting elections using Twitter data.

[CCNY physicists} have developed analytic tools combining statistical physics of complex networks, percolation theory, natural language processing and machine learning classification to infer the opinion of Twitter users regarding the Presidential candidates this year.

“Forecasting opinion trends from real-time social media is the long-standing goal of modern-day big-data analytics,” said Makse, a Fellow of the American Physical Society. “Despite its importance, there has been no conclusive scientific evidence so far that social media activity can capture the opinion of the general population at large.”

However, by using a large-scale dataset of 73 million tweets collected from June 1 to September 1, 2016, Makse and his associates are able to investigate the temporal social networks formed by the interactions among Twitter users.

Read the article with links to the research here:

Pollsters are increasingly turning to what statisticians call covariates, Wainer writes,

 A more promising approach (using covariates but a different matching variable) uses Nielson ratings, which are not self-selected and are well documented to accurately depict viewing habits. And then tying viewing habits to voting choices in previous elections 2012, 2008, etc. After building the model from such data they use the current viewing habits to predict 2016. So the idea is that if the viewership is growing monstrous for Duck Dynasty, Hillary ought to watch out, whereas if there are big jumps for McNeil-Lehrer (or whatever it is called now) Trump should worry.

Wainer continues,

You get the idea — the point of polls is to use the outcome of polls to predict the outcome we care about. But if polls are unreliable we must find more reliable (but still efficacious) predictors. Perhaps tweets help, but there are other options. In the future, if people continue to not answer phones, these alternative approaches will become the norm.

Traditional polling is increasingly shaky, you glance at your phone, if you can’t identify the number you ignore it, if it is an 800 or an 888 number you ignore it. Pollsters are dependent on responses, who answers the phone?  Older voters with more time? Who doesn’t answer the phone? Have you programmed your phone to only accept specific numbers?  If non-responses are gigantic traditional telephone-based polling is both inaccurate, and, not the best way to predict outcomes.

Yes, Twitter or Nielson or Facebook may provide better ways of predicting outcomes.

Wainer concludes,

Although it is well known that being a statistician means never having to say you’re certain (nothing in life is ever better than 3 to 1), I feel safe in betting the farm on Hillary (regardless of the release of emails). And also a Democratic Senate.

Reshuffling the Deck: Why Growth-Based Accountability School Metrics Are Fair to Schools, Teachers and the Public

If you overlaid poverty by zip code with school accountability metrics, no surprise, high poverty geographic areas closely match low performance on standardized tests, as well as rates of chronic absenteeism, numbers of suspensions, number of students in foster care or living in shelters, etc.,

If you overlaid education levels of parents with school accountability metrics, no surprise, levels of parent education closely align with student achievement.

Schools Watch, part of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School published an enlightening study, A Better Picture of Poverty.

‘New York City’s ‘truly disadvantaged’ public schools. urban schools serve students and their families who face the heaviest misery and hardship imposed by poverty and family dysfunction, and these are typically in neighborhoods most bereft of the reserves of community “social capital” that can offset poverty’s worst effects.

The study  devised a new metric that the Center called “risk load factors.”

“…18 school and community “risk load factors” that closely align with scores on Common Core tests … From teacher turnover to the number of students who are homeless, our analysis shows that the connection between chronic absenteeism and the characteristics of deep poverty are clear.”

“A 2013 study in Philadelphia concluded that homelessness, child maltreatment and a mother’s level of education were the strongest predictors of a child’s school achievement.”

In spite of the undisputed links of poverty to test results New York State uses a proficiency metric – a cut score, a proficiency grade, set by the state psychometrician, solely based on test scores.

High income, high tax, high parent education districts are overwhelmingly proficient while low income, low tax, low parent education level districts are overwhelmingly below proficient, or, to use the state term, are “approaching proficiency.”

As I described on a recent blog New York State, as part of the new ESSA law is crafting a new accountability metric, with wide discretion.

A core question emerged: should the state continue utilizing proficiency metrics or move to a growth metric. A growth metric utilizes growth regardless of proficiency.

Mike Petrilli is the President of the Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education think tank; however, you can’t place Petrilli in the “(de)reformer” camp; he is an independent thinker.

In his Flypaper blog  “Why states should use student growth, and not proficiency rates, when gauging school effectiveness,” Petrilli and his co-author, Aaron Churchill write,

Our goal with this post is to convince you that continuing to use status measures like proficiency rates to grade schools is misleading and irresponsible—so much so that the results from growth measures ought to count much more—three, five, maybe even nine times more—than proficiency when determining school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Status measures are the metrics I refer to: geography, parent income and education, etc.

The authors make a cogent argument

The blog argues:

  1. In an era of high standards and tough tests, proficiency rates are correlated with student demographics and prior achievement. If schools are judged predominantly on these rates, almost every high-poverty school will be labeled a failure. That is not only inaccurate and unfair, but it will also demoralize educators and/or hurt the credibility of school accountability systems. In turn, states will be pressured to lower their proficiency standards.
  2. Growth measures—like “value added” or “student growth percentiles”—are a much fairer way to evaluate schools, since they can control for prior achievement and can ascertain progress over the course of the school year. They can also differentiate between high-poverty schools where kids are making steady progress and those where they are not.
  3. In contrast with conventional wisdom, growth models don’t let too many poor-performing schools “off the hook.” Failure rates for high-poverty schools are still high when judged by “value added” or “student growth percentiles”—they just aren’t as ridiculously high as with proficiency rates.

:Petrilli and Churchill don’t shy away from their critics,

Probably the strongest argument against using growth models as the centerpiece of accountability systems is that they don’t expect “enough” growth, especially for poor kids and kids of color. The Education Trust, for example, is urging states to use caution in choosing “comparative” growth models, including growth percentiles and value-added measures, because whether students are making enough progress to hit the college-ready target by the end of high school, or whether low-performing subgroups are making fast enough gains to close achievement gaps. And that much is true. But let’s keep this in mind: Closing the achievement gap, or readying disadvantaged students for college, is not a one-year “fix.” It takes steady progress—and gains accumulated over time—for lower-achieving students to draw even with their peers….. An article by Harvard’s Tom Kane reports that the wildly successful Boston charter schools cut the black-white achievement gap by roughly one-fifth each year in reading and one-third in math. So even in the most extraordinary academic environments, disadvantaged students may need many years to draw even with their peers (and perhaps longer to meet a high college-ready bar). That is sobering indeed.

The article should be required reading for every policy-maker and the conclusion is dramatic:

Using proficiency rates to rate high-poverty schools is an unfair practice to schools that has real-world consequences. Not only does this policy give the false impression that practically all high-poverty schools are ineffective, but it also demeans educators in high-needs schools who are working hard to advance student learning. Plus, it actually weakens the accountability spotlight on the truly bad high-poverty schools, since they cannot be distinguished from the strong ones

Read the entire blog:

The failure to acknowledge and learn from high growth schools is disturbing:  the Department assigned a principal to phase out a low performing school that shared most of the poverty “risk load factors.”  In the last two years the school growth scores were impressive, although far, far below proficient.  The school closed and the teachers scrambled to find jobs or end up in the ATR pool. No one seemed interested in what the school did in the last two years – why was the school making progress?  Among low proficiency schools there is a considerable difference in growth. Did the positive growth schools alter their structure; use Title 1 dollars differently, collaborate effectively,? what was the role of the school leader?:  bottom line – why didn’t the Department take a deep dive into the leadership and instructional practices in higher growth school regardless of overall proficiency rates?

There are also high proficiency, low growth schools; should we give them a pass? A friend toured a high proficiency high school and viewed mediocre instruction; He asked the principal why he wasn’t working to improve the instruction. The principal replied, “Why mess with success?”

The move from proficiency to growth is reshuffling the deck and will be discomforting too some schools; however, it will be fair to schools, teachers and the public.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbes reports,

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

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

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

The law provided the following,

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

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

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

4) More time for instruction;

5) Entry tests for new teachers;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are charter schools a triage model?

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

… in 1903 in a book called The Negro Problem, W. E. B. DuBois wrote:  “The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.”

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

Not Baker’s words, clearly what Baker implied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read draft ESSA regulations:

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

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

Read a lengthier description of the process: ,

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

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

Draft Guiding Principles

Draft Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools

High Concept Ideas

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

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

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

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

See Ed Trust position papers here  and here.

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

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

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

View Overview of Proposed Accountability Models:

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

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

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

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

The Lysistrata Effect: Misogyny, Women and the Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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