Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Critical Race Theory and the Intersection of Cultures

The subtexts of every conversation are race, gender and class. (and recently I added gender identity)

We were chatting about this and that, idle conversation, and one of us said, something like we have to remember the Holocaust, one guy replied,” Why do you keep bringing up the Holocaust, if was a long time ago.”, I put myself in the conversation, “I agree, we have to move on, Jesus was crucified 2,000 years ago, why do you guys keep bringing it up?” There was a long awkward silence, and the topic changed to sports.

We can’t erase history; erasing history is rewriting history.

The past is populated by glowing moments and a “dark side.”

Why are some of us calling for erasing and re-writing our history?  

Should we teach that the author of Declaration of Independence was not only a slave owner but felt that enslaved Black people were inferior,

blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.

The author of the Declaration of Independence fathered six children by Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman. beginning when she was a teenager.

James Madison, in Federalist 51:  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

It wasn’t until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled criminalizing interracial marriage was unconstitutional, the Court wrote,

.Loving v Virginia (1967) Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man”, fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

Many of us remember Sidney Poitier, Audrey Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1969),” how much has changed?

Did the election of Barack Obama in 2008 preage our entry into a post-racial America?

What does post-racial mean?  Will we live in a world where race is irrelevant?  Or, that the only American culture is White culture? Does that mean we will extinguish Black culture? 

A black journalist writes,

“I’m interested in living in a post-racist world, where being African American doesn’t dictate limitations on what I can do – but I don’t want to live post-race. Our differences are so fascinating and wonderful. We don’t want to all be the same. Who wants that?”

Our nation destroyed indigenous peoples, Native American cultures, Raphael Lemkin writes,

colonization was in itself “intrinsically genocidal” … this genocide destroyed indigenous peoples, Native American cultures, Raphael Lemkin writes, “the genocide_of_indigenous_peoples was a stage process, the first being the destruction of the indigenous population’s way of life. In the second stage, the newcomers impose their way of life on the indigenous group

Are we attempting tp erase Black culture and Afro-American history?

The National Museum of Afro-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian in an exhibit entitled “Talking About Race’ defines “Whiteness,”

Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups of are compared. Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America. Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity throughout America’s history have created a culture where nonwhite persons are seen as inferior or abnormal.

Thinking about race is very different for nonwhite persons living in America. People of color must always consider their racial identity, whatever the situation, due to the systemic and interpersonal racism that still exists.  

Whiteness (and its accepted normality) also exist as everyday microaggressions toward people of color. Acts of microaggressions include verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs or insults toward nonwhites. Whether intentional or not, these attitudes communicate hostile, derogatory, or harmful messages.

The current attacks on Critical Race Theory are a defense of Whiteness,

Critical race theory (CRT) is a school of thought meant to emphasize the effects of race on one’s social standing. It arose as a challenge to the idea that in the two decades since the Civil Rights Movement and associated legislation, racial inequality had been solved and affirmative action was no longer necessary. CRT continues to be an influential body of legal and academic literature that has made its way into more public, non-academic writing”.

Critical Race Theory is not taught in K-12 schools, an excellent blog post exposes attempts to erase the “unpleasantness” of our past  here

Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion famously concluded: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” But during oral arguments, then-justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: “It’s very hard for me to see how you can have a racial objective but a nonracial means to get there.”

Given the fertility/mortality rates and rate of inter racial marriage in a few decades we will be a majority people of color nation.

Racism is driven by the “fear of the other.”

We can overcome our fear of the other, what I think of as a precursor to all the “isms,” with practice. Mingle with the “other” often enough and the fear/anxiety switch won’t trigger. One day you’ll notice the presence of the absence of that niggling sense of anxiety because the “other” will now be just like you.

Will the NYS Legislature Require Transparency in Charter Schools?

James Madison: “If Men were angels, no government would be necessary…” “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 (Federalist Paper # 51)

Politics is a messy business, even in the best of times; Otto von Bismarck, a late 19th c German Chancellor, a believer in realpolitik, the idea that realism and practicalities should outweigh ideology and emotion in political decisions is quoted, “Laws are like sausages. It is best not to see them being made.”

These days making sausages is a lot more sanitary than lawmaking.

In the current Congress Republicans and Democrats are necessary to pass laws; in the NYS legislature Democrats control both houses of the legislature, the Assembly and the Senate.

On Tuesdays, from January until June the halls of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) is crowded with folks advocating for this bill or that bill, Thousands of bills are introduced during each session and only a few hundred become law.

Aside from ordinary citizens paid lobbyists prowl the halls, more accurately develop relationships with the key legislators. An example is Patrick Jenkins, one of the most influential lobbyists in Albany, a college roommate of Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly; Jenkins is currently named in a federal investigation. There are scores of lobbying firms as well as lobbyists who may work for unions, corporations, (de)former organizations, or NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group.

Bills are introduced early in the session; the session begins in January and most of the business centers around the budget, the state fiscal year ends March 31 and budgets are approved by April 1; however, the budget is far more than the allocation of state funds. The governor can add items to the budget bill that have nothing to do with the budget (See Pataki v Silver).

There is no limit to the number of bills a legislator can introduce, Linda Rosenthal has introduced 246 bills many dealing with women’s rights, protecting animals, tenant rights and a wide range of other bills. Bills are assigned to committees, and, depending on the bill, multiple committees. Some bills have multiple sponsors, increasing the chance of moving forward. Most bills languish at the committee level. The “gatekeeper” is the Speaker, who controls the flow of legislation.

There a number of bills relating to  charter schools; more than in prior years, almost all limiting the authority of charters.

  • A03598 Relates to the enrollment of students at charter schools, the suspension of students at charter schools and the administration of charter schools
  • A01559 Requires the location of a proposed charter school be included in the charter application
  • A02648 Relates to imposing certain conditions on the approval of a charter school application

                       A03231 Relates to the transparency and accountability of charter schools

  • A04688 Prohibits the approval of a charter school application when such school would operate within the Buffalo city school district
  • A05116 Relates to applications for charter schools
  • A05117 Relates to revisions to charter schools
  • A05118 Relates to charter schools in cities with a population of one million or more
  • A05119 Relates to the takeover and restructuring of failing schools
  • A05135 Relates to charter schools

One of the bills  (A03598) agrees with one of my recent blogs no, I had no influence in the filing of the bill. The memo describing the bill, calls for greater accountability for improving and advancing student achievement. 

“When the New York State charter school laws were first enacted in 1998, its stated purpose was, among other goals, to improve student learning and achievement, and to increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure. 

 Almost twenty years later, there remains an on-going debate whether charter schools in this State are in fact achieving their statutory goals; in particular, educating and retaining ELL students, students with disabilities, and students from underserved families, the very students that charter schools were created to serve. 

There is also a growing concern that charter schools routinely suspend or expel low performing students, or pressure them to withdraw from the school.  Despite repeated inquiry and requests, charter schools have not been forthcoming in providing the necessary data to determine the accuracy of these criticisms. Any form of accountability relies on transparency and the communication of accurate, relevant information.  This bill would, among other things:

1. increase the reporting requirements of charter schools and the commissioner of Education;

2. require charter schools to adhere to the same disciplinary rules and procedures as those imposed on public schools; and

3. clarify that charter schools that do not meet their statutory and contractual goals should not have their charters renewed”

The final days of the legislative session are called “The Big Ugly,” the rush to pass bills in the final days.

Civics education is crucial; every student should be familiar with the workings of our democracy. The aromas are sweet as well as noxious.

How do we teach civics and the “dark side?”   Be honest.

Some electeds oppose restrictions on charters to mollify charter school parents and encourage campaign contributions. Yes, direct contributions are public and limited, Independent Expenditures, (See Citizens United SCOTUS decision here) are both unlimited and can be anonymous. Charter opponents, unions and public school parents, have clout due to membership voters.

Landlords oppose restrictions on building, tenants support building low and middle income housing, almost every bill has advocates and opponents and dollars are at play. Running for office is expensive and the state does not subsidize elections; NYC does subsidize city elections.

How do we teach the noxious side of politics?

We acknowledge, men are not angels. Our founding fathers were slaveholders. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. Jefferson fathered six children by Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman and his deceased wife’s half sister. John Adams and the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, clearly violating First Amendment guaranteed freedoms of speech and the press.

In the final days of the legislative session deals in the darkest corners of Albany will be agreed upon, in some cases after making changes in the bill, in others bills will be combined, the endless machinations of the “big ugly.”

… the session ended Friday on a whimper rather than a flurry of deal making that typically happens in June at the state Capitol.

That meant the top priorities for some lawmakers and advocates went unfinished, prompting legislative leaders to vow to potentially hold a special session later this year if deals can be reached.

“As always, we know that our work is never-ending when it comes to improving the lives of the people of this great state, and we stand at the ready,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement.

Making Tough Choices: The Board of Regents, Equity, Charter Schools and Content-Rich Curriculum

Over the last few weeks states and school districts across the nation have been busy “canceling” the use of the 1619 Project curriculum as well as baring references to Critical Race Theory.

Education is a “reserved power,” pursuant to the 10th Amendment.

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.

Every state has an education policy board, usually appointed by the governor, in California elected in a state-wide election and in New York State “elected” by a joint meeting of the state legislatures, since the Democrats greatly outnumber the Republicans the Democratic leader of the Assembly in reality “selects” the Board members. Members are unstaffed and unpaid; questions of funding are part of the state legislative process. There are no qualifications to serve on education policy boards.  The CUNY and SUNY boards are appointed by the governor,

Does the Speaker, the leader of the Assembly, influence decisions of Board of Regents? [Some charter schools employ paid lobbyists]

Each state is divided into school districts with elected lay policy boards; there are 13,000 school boards across the nation.

New York State has seventeen Board members, some representing Judicial Districts, others at -large. The state is divided into over 700 school districts, including the “Big Five,” Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City.

While the Board establishes regulations and sets policy, policies are recommendations to the districts. Curriculum, for example, is a local determination, graduation requirements and testing are regulations.

In August, 2019 the NY Times published the 1619 Project,  Hannah Nicole-Jones, an investigative reporter and her NY Times team constructed a series of essays and has been expanded into a detailed curriculum along with lesson plans, podcasts and other teaching tools presenting the “dark side” of our history.

Jones describes the 1619 Project as “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black American have fought to make them true.”

If I were teaching American History I would select some of her materials and I have disagreements with some of her interpretations and a tone of hopelessness runs through her work. I would assign, We Could Have the Been Canada, a New Yorker essay that argues that the American Revolution was a bad idea and we may have been able to avoid the Civil War. Read here

Some school districts have adopted the 1619 curriculum, others banned the curriculum. Diane Ravitch views here.

The NYS Board of Regents have taken a different approach, at their May meeting they adopted an explicit policy statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, acknowledging that ultimately policies are matters of local discretion.

A growing body of research finds that all students benefit when their schools implement strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies and practices – including academic, cognitive, civic, social-emotional, and economic benefits. Strong DEI policies, in partnership with parents and families, empower students from all backgrounds to visualize successful futures for themselves and provide them with a sense of belonging and self-worth. These benefits can lead to improved student achievement, which in turn can lead to better outcomes in other areas of their lives, including work and civic engagement. This is true regardless of a school’s geographic location or the demographic composition of its students and faculty. We recognize that the decision to adopt a DEI policy, as well as the contents of such a policy, are ultimately matters of local discretion. However, the Regents believe strongly that there is a moral and an economic imperative to remove the inequities that stand in the way of success for whole segments of New York’s student population. Accordingly, the Board expects that all school districts and institutions of higher education will develop and implement policies and practices that advance diversity, equity and inclusion – and that they will implement such policies and practices with fidelity and urgency.

See full policy statement here

There are no references to the 1619 Project, no references to Critical Race Theory; the Regents believe “…there is a moral and an economic imperative to remove the inequities that stand in the way of success for whole segments of New York’s student population.”

At the June Meeting a number of school districts, including New York City presented how they’re addressing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy statement. See “The Bronx Strategy, Building Culturally Responsive Sustaining and Inclusive Environments” here.

New York State is diverse, by ethnicity, by income, by size, by politics and by per capita education expenditures.  The differences in spending are disgraceful, high property tax districts spend twice as much per student as a rural low tax district. The current session of the state legislature did resolve the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, a positive first step and many more stairs to climb.

Will the policy statements of the Board impacted classrooms?

I have my doubts, schools are consumed with mandated testing requirements, tests that unfortunately drive instruction.

One of the major policy initiatives, My Brothers Keeper, is accompanied by funding and the impact, higher graduation rates, more kids taking advanced subjects are evidence.

The Board of Regents authorizes, monitors and decides on charter school renewals. In my view they are failing in their responsibilities.

Charter schools are not “engines of innovation,” after twenty years the charter school experiment has failed. In a recent blog post I called for the end of the charter school experiment and the integration of charter schools into the NYC Department of Education (Read here)

Charters must be renewed, and, in the fifth year the Department determines renewals and the length of the renewal. (See Charter School Frameworks here)

 At the June meeting the Regents renewed a charter for two years (See report here); a school (CAMPOS Middle School) has not been supported by their community. The original charter contracts for 325 students in the grades 6-8 middle school, five years later the school enrolls only 86 students. The 6th grade enrollment is only 17 students. If the school was a public school the school would have been integrated within neighborhood schools.

A closer look at the school is depressing, for example uncertified teachers and three Directors of Operations and a Dean of students, for a school with 86 students. Shouldn’t the State Ed folks have raised red flags?

The school is not providing the quality education that the Board has demanded of schools across the state.

A few members of the Board were sharply critical of the two year renewal; however the Commissioner, the Chancellor and the remainder of the Board supported the renewal.

The Board has advocated, albeit quietly, for equalizing the funding for schools; a very heavy lift.  Our highest poverty, lowest achieving schools receive far fewer dollars than the highest achieving schools.

Unfortunately the Board is not advocating for the end of the charter school experiment. Charter schools are not a “value-added,” the reality is they simply divert dollars and students away from public schools. 

I applaud the Board for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies, long overdue; however curriculum is a critical factor in student academic success.

Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education is an important element; without a content-rich curriculum our efforts are for naught. Too many times I have visited struggling schools, passionate, caring teachers are using material well below grades levels, with the excuse “we want our students to succeed.” 

David Steiner took a deep dive into high performing countries and schools, and finds,

» Comprehensive, content-rich curriculum is a common feature of academically high-performing countries.

» The cumulative impact of high-quality curriculum can be significant and matters most to achievement in the upper grades where typical year-on-year learning gains are far lower than in previous grades.

» Because the preponderance of instructional materials is self-selected by individual teachers, most students are taught through idiosyncratic curricula that are not defined by school districts or states.

» Research comparing one curriculum to another is very rare and, therefore, not usually actionable.

The overarching conclusions from the Johns Hopkins’ review are that curriculum is deeply important, that a teacher’s or district’s choice of curriculum can substantially impact student learning, and that—as a result—the paucity of evidence upon which sound instructional, purchasing, and policy decisions can be made is a matter of deep concern and urgent need.

I understand the State Education Department is woefully understaffed and basically has abandoned curriculum development, EngageNY is still in use; however the State does not provide guidance to districts re choices of curriculum.

John White, the former state commissioner in Louisiana calls for aligning teacher preparation and curriculum selection at the school and district level guided by state education departments. (Read here)

Network charter schools with millions of philanthropic dollars do have high state test scores: how many of their graduates go on to selective high schools?  Community charter schools struggle, and without monitoring of testing the results are questionable.

It’s time to wrap up the charter school experiment.

The Board has taken first step, bold steps, to encourage a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion agenda at all levels across the state, its time for next steps.

California is embarking on revisions of mathematics curriculum, moving away from tracking classes, (See here), beyond my expertise, exactly the work states must pursue.

The My Brothers’ Keeper Guidance Document: “Emerging Practices for Schools and Communities” (Read here) sets a framework. 

I know I know, probably a bridge too far, if you don’t try you’ll never get there.

[UPDATED]The Looming Budget Cliff: Why the Next Mayor Really Matters for Educators

The Democratic primary, the election to choose the next mayor, the Republicans have ceded the election by not running viable candidates, is a tossup, Rank Choice Voting and many voters saying “undecided.”

The seemingly endless Zoom debates have told us little about the candidates’ education policy.

We do know that, with the exception of Scott Stringer, the candidates have tiptoed around education policy issues.

Andrew Yang’s TV add says, “Open the Schools,” we did that a few months ago; all the candidates agree on lower class size, Wiley and Morales favor “take cops out of schools” (they’re aren’t in schools). One of the few areas of sharp differences is the Specialized High School Admissions (SHSAT), Yang strongly favors keeping the tests, Wiley and Morales opposing and the others waffling in between. Adams, Garcia, McGuire and Yang support raising the cap on charter schools (the cap is part of state law, not a decision for the mayor). Yang supports Yeshivas on the question of whether they are providing an “equivalent” education.

Each of the candidates is playing to a constituency, Stringer to teachers and public school parents, Adams emphasizing fighting crime, Garcia endorsements by the NY Times and the Daily News, Wiley and Morales the “progressives,” Yang a light touch on all policies.

The polls put Garcia, Adams and Yang in the top rung with Wiley and Stringer a rung down the ladder with Donovan, McGuire and Morales at the bottom of the ladder.

UPDATE: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (A)C) endorsed Maya Wiley, in a blazing speech accusing Yang and Adams of wanting to “privatize our school system,” will it push Wiley to the top tier of candidates?

The candidate with the most # 1 votes is not the winner, unless they receive a majority of the votes cast; the RCV process “exhausts” the ballots from the bottom up transferring votes to the #2 choice on the ballot, the process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of the votes cast.

“Big Ideas” cost dollars.

Yang favors a “public bank,” a “big idea” with many funding questions. as well as giving the 500,000 poorest New Yorkers unfettered grants of $2,000, the price tag: $1 billion

Morales “big idea” is social housing,

.the city buys land and then sells it at an affordable price to a private developer chosen through a competitive selection process. The city retains control over the style of the development. As a critical pre-requisite, the developer must rent half of the new apartments to lower-income residents. The remaining units are generally reserved for moderate-income residents.

Eric Adams has his “big idea,”

proposing a “People’s Plan” with three components: tax credits for poor New Yorkers, free and low-cost child care for children under 3, and an app called MyCity to apply for benefits like food stamps.

Under Mr. Adams’ tax credit plan, which he is calling NYC AID, poor families would receive about $3,000 per year, the price tag: ?

As the election eats up all the air we hear very little about the city budget. A lame duck mayor and a lame duck city council are putting finishing touches on the city budget, in a strange year.

The American Rescue Plan dollars give the city a one-time infusion of billions dollars and pushes a glaring problem down the road. The Independent Budget Office reports,

.. Looking just at the city’s $7.0 billion in federal pandemic aid for education, about $3 billion, or more than 40 percent, has been budgeted for initiatives continuing through 2025. The bulk of this, $2.0 billion, is for the expansion of the 3K program, an extension of universal pre-K, perhaps the signature program of the de Blasio Administration and its legacy.

Though 3K and other programs [lower class size] funded through 2025 with federal stimulus dollars may be worthwhile, it leads to the obvious question of how to fund them when the federal dollars are no longer available. If these programs are to continue, the next Mayor and City Council will need to locate alternative funding sources or cut spending in order to maintain budget balance.

The City and the Municipal Labor Coalition are negotiating retiree health benefits, is the Mayor adequately funding the Retiree Health Benefits Trust?  How about the next Mayor?

,,,the Mayor has proposed replenishing the Retiree Health Benefits Trust to a balance of roughly $3.8 billion.

The UFT contract is up in the fall, de Blasio has not set aside adequate funding for negotiations in his proposed budget,

Pressure on the budget can also come from the municipal labor force. By the end of 2022, nearly all city labor agreements will have expired. There is little funding in the city’s labor reserve for the next round of contracts. An increase of just 1.0 percent would add $2.4 billion in expenses to the financial plan through 2025.

The budget projections are based upon the city returning to pre-COVID days: Will tourists return? Will workers return to offices or remain remote? Will small business return?

New York City has endured one of its most tumultuous years in modern history. Actions taken by the Mayor and this Council, as well as its successors, may prove to be among the most significant decisions made for the city in generations.

The Citizen’s Budget Commission, a conservative budget watchdog sees an impending budget cliff,

While new federal aid declines until depleted during fiscal year 2025, the substantial new and expanded programs funded are unlikely to end without opposition once the federal aid is exhausted. As a result, the proposed use of federal aid is likely to create a substantial fiscal cliff that could reach $4 billion in fiscal year 2026,

Where will the next mayor find dollars to fund their “big ideas”? 

Will they abandon pre-K for All, 3K and lower class sizes, if so, teacher reductions/layoffs?

Will they seek “savings” in labor negotiations?

Who will they select for the next school chancellor? An educator with New York City experience or a (de)reformer?

I’m voting for Scott Stringer for a simple reason: he knows us and we know him, I feel comfortable with Scott.

I’m voting for Cory Johnson for Comptroller, for the same reason, as Speaker of the City Council he was a trusted partner.

The underlying issue might not be a “big idea,” it might be crime.

The pandemic year, 2020, saw an increase in crime, as did every other urban center. New York City has seen an unparalleled decrease in violent crime over the last 30 years, 2200 murders in 1990 and 295 in 2019. April 2020 to April 2021:

Murder         +17.9% (from 38 to 44)

Robbery       -16.1%

Fel Assault   +3.6%

Burglary        -14/7%

The media mantra: if it bleeds it leads, while the numbers are concerning we are far, far from a return to the 1980’s. The NY Post pushes for a return to “stop and frisk,” more aggressive policing at the same time that “trust” in the police is at an all-time low.

Early voting begins on June 12th.

Two Popes: Will the Incumbent and the Winner of the Democratic Primary Collaborate to Build a New Department of Education or Vie for Power?

In the fourteenth century two popes vied for control of the Catholic Church, one in Rome and the other in Avignon, called the Great Schism, the popes battled for decades. Will we face the same warfare? Days or weeks after the June primary election a winner will be declared and the city will have two mayors, the lame duck mayor filling out days his/her days until the end of the year and the incoming mayor, hanging out in the wings.

The candidates are running against each other and against the incumbent; the attacks are becoming more and more personal.

In a mayoral control city the school board, appointed by the mayor, selects the superintendent, educational decisions and political decisions intersect. Will ending the selection process for Gifted and Talented classes alienate White and Asian voters, or attract Voters of Color? Integrate or further segregate schools?

De Blasio, the lame duck mayor and the interim acting chancellor are currently re-designing education for an almost post COVID world and they’re planning how to expend the billions of American Rescue Act dollars under the direction of a mayor who will be gone four months after schools re-open in September. The new mayor will step into a Department of Education already re-redesigned by the predecessor.

Everyone has plans.

Kim Sweet, the highly respected leader at Advocates for Children has her priorities, Jim Kemple at the Research Alliance for NYC Schools recommends a set equity-based solutions and David Kirkland at the NYU Metro Center with other priorities.

Will de Blasio simply say I’m the mayor until December 31st, the scepter and orb is mine, I will make the decisions until the clock chimes at midnight?

Will the primary winner be given a seat at the table, working with the incumbent in a smooth transition?

Will the incumbent and the mayor-in-waiting resort to 14th century actions, threats of excommunication, assassination attempts and the hundred year’s war, in other words, standing outside the tent peeing in?

Will the mayor-in-waiting choose a chancellor-in-waiting as soon as his/her primary win is assured?

I suggested in a previous post that the incumbent and the mayor-in-waiting should jointly select, let’s call it an advisory panel, to recommend a restructuring of the Department of Education, to wait until January 1st, the formal start of the term of the new mayor is beyond awkward.  A few key questions:

  • Should the membership of the Panel for Education Priorities be changed? Should the members serve fixed terms?
  • Should we create a “thinner“ bureaucracy?
  • How do we devolve decision-making to schools/clusters of schools?
  • How should we redefine accountability?

And many other questions ….

The key people are Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew, the teacher union leaders.

Unless your “reform” has teacher buy-in reforms will stumble. The education landscape is cluttered with corpses of failed reforms.

Tyyack and Cuban in Tinkering Toward Utopia:  A Century of Public School Reform (1997) tell us reformers must “… understand the political nature of school reform; involve teachers; understand how complex the process is and how much thought and patience it takes; learn from the past. When we try to use radical school reform to solve whatever public problem seems most urgent—that endless cycle of educational crisis, utopian demand and disillusionment—we fail both our schools and our society.”

A decade ago I sat in a roomful of school leaders and watched David Coleman’s kickoff of the Common Core, he was explaining how to teach Martin Luther King’s “A Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” and began by telling us how we’ve been teaching the lesson was incorrect; effectively alienating his audience; I knew we were in trouble.

The billionaire school reformers, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and others have followed the same pathway: exclude teacher union leaders from the process, dooming their initiatives.

Personal and organizational begins with two statements:

  • Change is perceived as punishment, “whatever you’ve been doing is wrong,” and
  • Participation reduces resistance, asking how we can do better is crucial.

The literature on school change is vast, we know change includes initial pushback, struggle and fatigues (see the stages of change here).

I had the good fortune to work in a school district committed to school-based management/decision-making, and, as the district union rep I participated in the process.

Our greatest enemy was the school system leadership, who pushed back; we were rocking the cart, threatening the existence of the bureaucracy, whose major goal was to protect the bureaucracy.

Eric Nadelstern, former # 2 at the Department of Education in the Bloomberg years described the Department as, “most intransigent bureaucracy since the fall of the Kremlin,” not exactly high praise. A management guide, “The very word bureaucracy conjures images of sloth, inefficiency and status quo-ist mindset. To associate bureaucracy with change would thus be looked as an oxymoron.”

The new mayor’s greatest ally is the teacher union leaders.

As soon as the Board of Election declares a winner, and with Rank Choice Voting it might take a while; s/he should pick up the phone and say, “Randi/Michael, lets talk.”

Is it time for New York City Charter Schools to be absorbed into a redesigned New York City School System?

Twenty years ago Governor Pataki bundled a salary increase with a charter school law in a lame duck session of the state legislature. Has the law achieved its purposes? (See NYS Charter School Law here).

The law established two authorizers, the State Education Department and SUNY. The State Education Department created Charter School Frameworks. (See Charter School Frameworks here)

The charter school law requires charters schools to:

* Improve student learning and achievement;

*Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;

*Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;

 * Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results.

Again, have charter schools achieved the goals established in the law?

The law sets a cap on the number of charter schools in the state which includes a cap for New York City; the cap has been reached in New York City.

There are two categories of charter schools: network school, organizations that manage groups of charter schools, functioning, in effect, as school districts. For example, Success Academy, Achievement First,, Uncommon Schools,, Harlem Children’s Zone; the network charter schools are richly funded through philanthropy.

Community charter schools, sometimes referred to as “Mom and Pop” schools; schools operated by local not-for-profits, schools that clearly have struggled. frequently not meeting the goals in their charter.

A few years ago I was at a forum; a public school parent and a charter school parent were involved in a discussion. The public school parent was arguing,

”Charter schools, throw out kids who are discipline problems, don’t take kids with disabilities and English language learner and substitute test prep for meaningful instruction.”

The charter school parent responded, “That’s exactly why I send my children to charter schools.”

We need one school system, not competing systems,

 Again, have charter schools achieved the goals set out in the law?

*Do charter schools, “Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure?”

Have charter schools *Encourage(d) the use of different and innovative teaching methods?

 Have charter schools “Provide(d) schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results?

The answer, clearly, is “no.”

If we define “students who are at risk of academic failure” as students with disabilities and English language learners the answer of a resounding “no.”  Charter schools enroll smaller numbers of at-risk students and try to accept students with easier to remediate handicaps,

There is no evidence of “innovative teaching methods.”

And, I fail to understand what change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results means: all schools must meet “measurable student achievement results.”

What should happen to charter schools?

Inside the Department of Education there are 150 schools “managed” by charter management-like organization (CMO), a remnant of the last years of the Bloomberg administration, called the Affinity District. Six not-for-profits provide the same level of services as the charter school management organizations supra, or more. New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly, CUNY Affinity Schools, Outward Bound, Internationals Network and NY Performance Consortium.

Norm Fruchter at the MY Metro Center wrote in detail about the origins and function o.f the Affinity District (Read here

The UFT contract allows for school-based options, changes in Department regulations and teacher union contractual requirements and a union initiative, PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence), supports these schools.

PROSE is about school-level innovations. It offers schools the ability to alter some of the most basic parameters by which they function including the way teachers are hired, evaluated and supported; the way students and teachers are programmed; the handling of grievances; and certain city and state regulations. Schools in the program explore and implement a variety of innovations at their schools.

I propose that Charter School Networks be combined with the Affinity District within the Department of Education umbrella.

The Community Charter schools can either join an Affinity Network or come under the jurisdiction of their local school district.

Charter schools in New York City would become part of the Department of Education, albeit with a special status and the ability to function under the relaxed rules currently existing in the Affinity District and the PROSE initiative.

I realize a heavy lift, a new mayor cannot simply nibble around the edges, the 1800 schools in New York City have been adrift for too long.

We need smaller, “thinner,” more manageable districts, with an emphasis on school and district-based decision-making.

Merging Charter networks and the Affinity networks would be a model for other schools,

How can we accomplish this giant step?

The new mayor, the winner of the June 22nd primary cannot wait until the November general election, s/he can form a commission as soon as the are they are declared the winner: teacher (UFT) and supervisory unions (CSA), parent advocates and the “better minds,” (I hate the term “thought leaders”), not a long list, an actual working group, let’s come up with a plan, a plan that will require changing the law. The Democrats control both houses of the state legislature.

The Research Alliance for New York School has just released a Blueprint for Advancing Equity in New York City Schools that can guide the work of the commission.

Our current mayor failed us, he used education as a political tool, and failed miserably, lets use the month before the new mayor takes office to create a new Department of Education in New York City

Why I’m not voting for Eric Adams or Andrew Yang in the June 22rd NYC Mayoral Democratic Primary

My absentee ballot came in the mail today.

Lots of offices and lots of choices: mayor, city council, public advocate, borough president and district attorney. New York City has a new method of voting, you can “rank” up to five candidates, “ranking” means placing candidates in preferential order on your ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote the lowest voter getter’s votes will move to the top ranker on their ballot, ballots will continue to be “exhausted” until a candidate achieves a majority of the votes. Why the change? In a previous mayoral election, no candidate received 40% of the vote, the threshold for winning and a runoff was held three weeks later – very expensive and very low turnout. In the city council elections, with multiple candidates, winners frequently garnered much less than a majority. Under the new system, no runoffs, and the winner will have a majority of the vote. New York City also has public financing of elections, for each dollar contributed; up to $250 from voters in your district the city will provide an additional eight dollars. 

The wisdom of these policies we can discus on another day.

The UFT, the teacher union, interviewed twelve mayoral candidates on a members-only Zoom (12,000 members participated), selected four finalists, and endorsed Scott Stringer; a former member of the State Assembly, Manhattan Borough President and Comptroller. I met with him a number of times to discuss local housing issues, he was engaging, well prepared, we didn’t agree on an issue, he gave reasons why and suggestions of other pathways. Unfortunately in most cases you get a thank you letter or a meeting with a staffer, who knows nothing about your issue. Stringer is a public school parent and well versed in school issues; he has been accused of inappropriate conduct, twenty years ago and vigorously denies the accusation.

The weekly polling has Adams and Yang in the lead, with half of all voters undecided, there are thirteen candidates on the mayoral ballot, that’s right, thirteen.

For me charter schools are a major issue: privatizing basic services is a disastrous direction. Basic services: education, housing, health care, police and fire, homelessness, and others are a core obligation of government.

Charter schools in New York City are either networks, multiple schools under one management structure, i. e., Success Academy, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, Harlem Children’s Zone,  and receive substantial, very substantial support from the private sector through tax deductible contributions. The other category are referred to as community or “mom and pop” charter schools, school created by local not-for-profit community organizations.

As we know from multiple investigations charter schools commonly push out low performing students (for example the Success Academy “Got to Go List”), and, the community charter schools have sub-par achievement data. 

The original purpose of charter schools was to create “engines of innovation.” We were rapidly disabused of the idea.

Eric Adams is a vigorous supporter of charter schools.

Charter school parents are a source of votes; will Adams gain charter school parent votes? The low performance of too many community charter schools is irrelevant. Pandering to constituencies is not a value I admire in a candidate.

Supporting low performing schools and supporting diverting dollars away from public schools to attract votes smells of the worst aromas of the days of decentralization.

Cross Adams off my list.

At the “final four” of the UFT interviews Yang was asked whether he read the UFT’s five principles for the use of the Biden Rescue Plan: Nope, he said he was unaware of the plan.

At Thursday night’s NY1 debate Yang’s bold new idea was to give each parent $1,000 to purchase tutoring and speech services; in other words, a voucher.  Yang seemed unaware, speech services are required by state law.  Vouchers are attacks on public education, used to segregate schools and move public dollars to the private sector without any accountability.

Cross Yang off my list.

I was impressed by Kathryn Garcia, the former NYC Commissioner of Sanitation, I liked her during the UFT interviews; however, she’s polling in the mid single digits, The NY Times and the NY Daily News just endorsed her: will she move to the top of the pack?

I’m holding on to my ballot for a week or two, as of today:

Stringer # 1

Garcia # 2

Wiley # 3

Under RCV you can rank up to five candidates, or fewer, or none.

Our education system has stumbled along during the seven de Blasio years, Carman Farina, de Blasio’s first selection as chancellor tried to turn back the clock and recreate a classic, and dysfunctional, superintendent system with ukases from above, his next choice, after being jilted at the alter by his first choice, Richard Carranza, added to a bloated bureaucracy and his “plan” was more testing as de Blasio continued to micromanage, moved on.

A June primary means a winner will be sitting in the wings for six months until s/he is sworn in as mayor.

Why am I voting for Stringer?

He has a record: decades in elected office with a deep understanding of the functioning of government and education is at the top of his agenda.

Our education system is a bloated bureaucracy, and Stringer agrees, can we redesign the system to make it more responsive to the needs of neighborhoods, schools, parents and teachers?

I have some ideas: stay tuned.

September 21 School Opening and Unanswered Questions: Requiring Vaccinations, Remote Instruction, Teacher Accommodations, Summer School and “Catching Up”

As the COVID positive rates continue to spiral downwards and the vaccination numbers increase the State is moving towards a full school opening. Broadway can reopen on September 14th, large sports venues allowing larger and larger crowds and school districts are planning full reopening: with a host of issues to be resolved.

Will school districts retain a remote instruction option?

In NYC, for a subset of medically fragile children: maybe. It is highly unlikely that individual schools will operate in-person and remote; it is too complicated and there are other options. For example, children seeking remote option can be clustered in a district-wide remote school. The Department and the Union will partner in an in-person school initiative.

Can COVID vaccinations be required for students?

The NYS Department of Health currently requires vaccinations for school enrollment. See details here

Across the nation many states have vaccination requirements, and, in some states there is virulent opposition by anti-vaxxer parents. Some states have religious and medical exemptions. The decision would be made at the state level and it is highly unlikely for this September; a year or so down the road when vaccinations for children are available the state may develop policies..

 Can COVID vaccinations be required for teachers and other school staff?

The Supreme Court sustained the right of a city to require smallpox vaccinations during an epidemic. The penalty for refusing a vaccination was a fine. The court, in a strongly worded opinion upheld the “police powers” of local government and the obligation to protect the health and safety of citizens.

The employer can require vaccinations for pre-service teachers, part of the job application process; to the best of my knowledge does not currently exist.

For in-service teachers in unionized school districts the question is less clear. Most union contracts require management to negotiate changes in “terms and conditions of employment” with the collective bargaining agent, the union.; however, state legislatures could pass laws governing requiring vaccination. In New York City/State the issue has not arisen.

If vaccinations are highly effective and we move to “herd immunity” and COVID becomes rare these issues will fade away; however, if the pace of vaccinations continues to slow and herd immunity is not reached governments may consider requiring vaccinations. Another issue, so far unanswerable, for how long will the vaccination protect us?  The flu vaccination formulation changes from year to year, will we require booster COVID vaccinations?  If so, how often?

Will school districts continue to make remote “accommodations” for teachers?

Prior to COVID an accommodation was a classroom on the first floor, an early or late session program, etc., the accommodation had to be achievable by the school. As we moved to remote learning all teachers were remote, as we moved to hybrid models we needed many remote teachers. The Department granted just about every request for remote accommodation; if we’re fully back to school there won’t be a remote option. If there is a small subset of students the Department and the Union will have to agree upon a selection procedure.

Why did schools replace snow days with remote days?

New York State requires 180 school days and next school year has a very tight calendar, Labor Day is September 6th, June 19th is an additional holiday (Juneteenth) and a “snow” day that reduces the calendar to under 180 days must be made up from a holiday or through extended schools days. Remote day(s) resolves the issue.

Has the Department decided how they’re going to use the additional Federal and State dollars?

The Federal (Biden Rescue Plan) dollars are only for two years and there are strings, the State Foundation Aid dollars are added to school budgets. As I have written everybody has suggestions (See here), and, the Department is releasing plans as they’re agreed upon.

For example, last year the NYC Teaching Fellows program had 75 students, next year 900 students; a sensible decision, the Department will need many more teachers for the 21-22 school year.

Every week the Department and the Unions meet to discuss and plan for the 21-22 school year.  The complexity is mind boggling: for example,

  • Create a summer school that is both exciting for children and instructionally meaningful, and, attracting teachers.
  • Did students “fall behind”? How do we know? Do we test, and, how do we use the test results? Traditional remediation programs have rarely “remediated” anything?
  • How do we support many, many thousands of brand new teachers?

I’m sure the list goes on and on.

The “Remediation Mindset” is a serious issue, Scott Marion, at the Center for Assessment suggests,

What teachers really need are good pre-assessments for the first unit or two that they’re teaching this year. What key knowledge and skills do kids need to succeed in this first or second unit? Then teachers must figure out what they need to build those skills. After that, they should do a pre-assessment for every following unit to find out what they need to shore up.

Read the entire post here.

An adventure in collaborative decision-making.

Are NYC Teacher Retiree Health Plan Benefits in Jeopardy?

Now that I have your attention, the answer is no, although depending upon the network you selected there may be changes.

An explanation: New York City contracts with health care providers and provides our coverage, if you are over 65 Medicare kicks in; the cost to the city is many billions of dollars.

Health and prescription costs have been escalating at an alarming rate and during each negotiation period the city requires “savings” to keep the same level of benefits. The negotiations are 3-way, the MLC (Municipal Labor Coalition), the unions representing all active and retired employees, the City and a number of health care organizations competing to be the providers.

If you are a UFT member register here for a Town Hall with Michael Mulgrew tomorrow at 1 PM

Various folks have been stirring the pot predicting sharp reductions in benefits. While the unions may be divided on whom they’re endorsing for political offices they are together on providing the highest level of services to members; however, unions are democratic organizations and some factions within unions are critical of their union leadership.

One of the lead negotiators, on a lengthy Zoom (over an hour), explains the status of the negotiations (about a week ago) and answers over fifty questions, well worth a watch.  The presenter is the CSA Health and Welfare Fund Director.

 Keep in mind nothing was been decided at the time of the presentation … the two finalists have been selected…. it’s never over until it’s over and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the presentation. 

The link is Passcode: +QGtWUF6

If after listening to Mulgrew tomorrow and watching the Zoom presentation you have questions contact the UFT Retiree Chapter in you area, I know all of us want to be helpful, replies on Facebook may or not be accurate (“But I heard it on the Internet”).

We will be participating in the selection of the next mayor and city council on June 22nd, you can request an absentee ballot online

On my morning bike ride the streets were busier; more empty Citibike racks, the Union Square Farmers Market vendors glad to see us back. We’re not out of the woods yet; obviously vaccinations, mask wearing, avoiding in-door cramped spaces, for me, next week a Mets day game.

Deep breathes, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, the days are getting longer and warmer.

Will NYC Create a Thoughtful and Effective Plan for the Billions of Education Dollars or Waste on Mindless Testing and Remediation?

I was biking up Third Avenue in May, no cars as far as I could see, New York City was a ghost town. The pandemic was rampant, subways and buses empty, the cities revenue stream had ended …. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.

Would the city go bankrupt?  (Read here)

Were we facing another 1975?  Widespread teacher layoffs? (Read here)

Candidate Biden becomes President Biden, the assault on the Congress fails and the Biden Rescue Plan becomes law.

Half of New York City is vaccinated and the number of vaccinated New Yorkers continues to grow.

The New York State legislature passes a budget that fully funds education, the fight over Foundation Aid is over.

Mayor de Blasio releases his Executive Budget, which he calls his Recovery Budget – worthwhile watching here.  The City Council has to approve the budget, the Council and the Mayor will negotiate and likely approve by mid-June.

The NYS Education Department has to submit a plan specifying how the Rescue Plan dollars will be utilized in the state. The Plan is due June 7th, see the Fact Sheet and the application template here and 90% of the Rescue funds must be released to school districts

 “A State must subgrant not less than 90 percent of its total ARP ESSER allocation to local educational agencies (LEAs) (including charter schools that are LEAs) in the State to help meet a wide range of needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including reopening schools safely, sustaining their safe operation, and addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic. The State must allocate these funds to LEAs on the basis of their respective shares of funds received under Title I

Within a few months, from 7,000 teacher layoffs to over $2B additional dollars for New York City schools.

What will the City do with this avalanche of funds?

Do you begin with addressing “learning loss,” or, maybe more accurately called “COVID Slide?” The Rescue Plan dollars are only for three years, how do you use the dollars to achieve the greatest impact? 

There are no shortages of ideas.

The United Federation of Teachers suggests a Five Point Plan (Read details here).

  • Mental health/academic intervention teams
  • Smaller classes
  • Extended summer learning programs
  • Targeted help for current high school students
  • UFT training program for teachers

The Alliance for Quality Education recommends,

* Class size reduction

* Teacher and principal quality initiatives

* Time on task

* Expansion of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs to full day, restructuring of high schools and middle schools

* Programs for English language learners, and,

* Experimental programs supported by research

Read AQE program in detail here.

Leonie Haimson at Class Size Matters argues cogently for a major reduction in class size (Read here) and City Council resolution proposes $250M in the proposed budget specifically for class size reductions (Read here)

The Learning Policy Institute, also in a detailed report, lists ten priority areas,

  1. Close the digital divide
  2. Strengthen distance and blended learning
  3. Assess what students need
  4. Ensure supports for social and emotional learning
  5. Redesign schools for stronger relationships
  6. Emphasize authentic, culturally responsive learning
  7. Provide expanded learning time
  8. Establish community schools and wraparound supports
  9. Prepare educators for reinventing school
  10. Leverage more adequate and equitable school funding

A thoughtful report, “How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond”? (May, 2020) relies on research from across the education spectrum.

I can go on and on, scores of organizations are making recommendations; the question: What works? Do we have evidence on effective programs?

The Mayor’s press conference mentioned a few programs and more details promised in a few weeks,

That infusion of cash, to be spent next school year, would cover tutoring, “universal academic assessments” to gauge children’s skills, and extra planning time for teachers

Former Chancellor Carranza, in the fall, laid out a program based on testing and targeted remediation: is the Department continuing the delayed Carranza programs? I hope not.

 A spokesperson for the education department added that schools would choose which assessments to use and that high-needs students will receive “targeted services.”

A guiding principle must be “ownership of practice,” teachers and school leaders must be at the heart of any program. For decades the education viziers in their castles issued ukases to the masses, as the “idea” trickled down through the endless bureaucracies it was transformed into drudgery, teaching became a job on an assembly line.

A highly effective practice is tutoring,

“…tutoring is one of the most powerful interventions of all. … “tutoring” refers to one-to-one or small-group instruction. Tutoring may involve one teacher or one teaching assistant working with one student, or one teacher or teaching assistant working with a very small group of students, usually two to four at a time.”

As one of us, David Steiner, recently affirmed, [remediation is] deeply demoralizing to students—just doesn’t work. Well intentioned teachers try to “meet students where they are,” but in trying to teach them all that they missed, are unable to bring them anywhere close to grade level work. Tutors, by contrast, can focus on the absolutely critical skills and knowledge that gives students accelerated access to grade-level material. This concentrated effort will be compounded where school districts have adopted high-quality instructional material. Such curricula engage students with rigorous materials that are on, or sometimes even slightly above, the level of traditional grade-level content

Allow schools to figure out the details, every school is different; engage the staff in creating their own school-specific tutoring model.

Remediation doesn’t work, has never worked, and we keep on repeating remediation models, the definition of doing something over and over again that doesn’t work is insanity.

David Steiner recommends,

we accelerate rather than remediate. Teachers do not water down curricula for our struggling students. Instead, we focus on expediting their growth and filling in any gaps in knowledge or skills, all while teaching them grade-appropriate content on a daily basis.

Don’t “water down,” use “grade appropriate content,” the concept of “meeting students were they’re at” is doomed, they just fall further and further behind, and, yes, a rich curriculum.

The challenge is sustainable change, not spackling, not simply filling in the cracks, and, at the core is thinning the vast bureaucracy and empowering teams at the local level. Give voice to teachers and school leaders.

At I hopeful?   

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens sing “We are the 99” at an October, 2011 Occupy Wall Street Rally – Can you use it in class?