Will Mandatory Anti-Bias Training Eliminate or Increase Implicit Bias’?

It was the first session of a graduate education class; I introduced myself and asked an icebreaker question: “Take a few minutes and write your philosophy of education,” everybody busily scribbled away except Muhammad, who was Afro-American, an adult convert to Islam and had been a biochemist at a major company. I called on Mohammad first: “All white people are racist, what matters is their ability to deal with their racism.”  I switched my plans and asked the students to respond to Mohammad. Some were outraged, “How can you call me a racist? You’ve never even met me,” Another student, “I grappling with this question, I’m a white guy from the suburbs, and how can I relate to students of color?”

It was an interesting term.

Race was the subtext of many conversations.

If kids are not connected to a lesson how do you know it and how do you respond?   A major theme was if you want to change outcomes you have to change inputs, you have to be able to adjust your teaching to the needs of the kids if you want to change the behaviors of the kids. You have to get beyond preconceived notions, bias.

If you assign easier texts, assign below grade level work, is that an appropriate response or is that an implicit bias?

Should you assign “culturally relevant” texts or texts that resonate with the kids? Or, both?

I asked a few high school teachers what texts the kids like best; one told me “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Tennessee Williams?  She said yes, the kids loved reading about really, really dysfunctional white people. Another teacher taught Robert W Service poems “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, which he described as “white hip-hop,” and asked the kids to write their own hip-hop in the same meter.

Another teacher averred, “I’m a good teacher; the kids simply don’t care.” The teacher was Nigerian.

Race and ethnicity are complicated.

While the New York City school system may be 40% Latinx; the kids come from many Spanish speaking nations with very different cultures. Teachers from the Caribbean are culturally very different from kids they teach from Brooklyn.

The decision to require that over the next few years all teachers will participate in Implicit Bias or perhaps called Anti-Bias Training makes a key assumption: that the training will reduce bias, however you define the term, and improve outcomes for students.

Chalkbeat, the education news website interviewed teachers, the results were mixed.

  • , New York City teachers have had divergent responses to anti-bias training.Most of the 70 or so teachers and staff who responded to a Chalkbeat survey say they found the five-hour training useful. A teacher at a school in the South Bronx said it was helpful to have group discussions about data showing how students of color have been “over-policed” compared to white students. But others raised concerns. Another administrator thought the session had only succeeded in creating “resentment” and would cause her to “second guess every decision I make.”

The New York Post interviewed teachers who sharply criticized the training, finding it insulting, and for a few, anti-Semitic.

A core question: does anti-bias training actually reduce bias?

A recent article in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science  “Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Message,” warns,

 “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” [The author] continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

]The author]stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

The New York Post article led to an op ed sharply critical of the chancellor and a lengthy response   from Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and at NYU, Kirkland wrote,

When institutions such as schools, that wield powerful influence over the lives of children, are not anti-biased, they are unequivocally dangerous. Thus, we recognize the need for educators to (1) become aware of the manifestations of racism and privilege in our own lives, in the systems we create and support, and in our cultures, (2) work together in community to dismantle and reorganize the systems that support racism and privilege, (3) actively support each other and our families to acknowledge, honor, and appreciate differences, and (4)  incorporate anti-bias education at every level of American education.

 David’s predecessor at the Center, Pedro Noguera has doubts,

Pedro Noguera‏ @PedroANoguera 5h5 hours ago

Many were surprised when I expressed skepticism about the value of anti-bias training. I do believe racial bias is real and pervasive. I don’t believe you can be trained out of it unless you are open to unlearning it. To me, addressing structural inequities is far more important.

If you want to check out the training itself the website describes the training, which compressed a six month course into a five hour training.

We all have inherent bias,’ some we’re aware of and struggle to overcome, some are subconscious, and some we just live with.

Police officers shoot innocent Afro-Americans who they see as threatening, Afro-Americans may see Jews as “good with money,” and on and on. As teachers we have to acknowledge bias, on our part and on the part of the children we teach and their parents.

We have to move beyond, we have to deal with students one by one, and we have to seek out the trigger, seek out that path that leads the student to maximize their talents and beyond.

Staffs that include a wide range of races and ethnicities allow us to learn from each other and encourage us to use each other to maximize our collective talents, and, to move beyond our bias.’

The New York State Legislature, Charter Schools and the “Big Ugly:” A Lesson in Civics (aka, Realpolitics)

Realpolitics: political realism or practical politics especially based on power as well as on ideals.

Why is politics so contentious? Why can’t people get along? Why is everything so partisan?

I can also ask why don’t Mets and Yankee fans get along. Giant and Jets fans?

Politics is contentious, sports are contentious, factions are part of human nature and factions can be passionate.

In Federalist # 10 Madison wrote,

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice

 Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

 Madison acknowledges that factions are at the heart of a democracy,

 Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

Faction, while at the heart of a democracy, can be destructive, one remedy, autocracy, destroys democracy.

We should be teaching students that ideals should drive policy; however, different people have different ideals and different paths to achieving their goals. Passion can be constructive or destructive.

New York State politics is contentious: Republicans versus Democrats, the governor versus the legislature, and Democrats versus Democrats; to the average voter the process seems frustrating, partisan and driven by lobbyist dollars.

The New York State legislature is in the home stretch with a crowded agenda. The legislature meets from January till mid June with two key periods, the days leading up to the April 1 budget deadline and the last few days of the session, referred to as “The Big Ugly,” the last few days when “this” is traded for “that,” For decades, with a brief interlude, Republicans have controlled the Senate and Democrats the Assembly. For twelve years a Republican sat in the governor’s perch (Pataki) and the last eight years Andrew Cuomo. The “three men in a room” made the deals. At the budget deadline the leverage was with the governor and he crammed in whatever he could, the courts granted the governor wide discretion in establishing budget parameters. (Read here).

Prior to the 2018 election Republicans controlled the Senate, and, in the final days, of the budget or the end of session, the “big ugly,” the Republicans used their leverage to pass charter friendly legislation, for example, in exchange for extending mayoral control in New York City. The charter school political committees (PACs) pumped dollars into key races, the Republicans won and “returned the favor.”

In the November, 2018 elections the Democrats swept Republican seats, the very seats that received support from the charter school PACs.

The leverage moved from the Republicans to the Democrats.

The key charter school issue is the charter cap in New York City. The law sets a cap on the number of charter schools and the cap has been reached

The City and State website  speculates over whether the governor supports raising the cap.

… the [charter school PACs] long-standing allies in the state Senate Republican conference are out of power; Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently revived the issue. “We support raising this artificial cap,” Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s spokesman, told the New York Post in mid-April. “But the Legislature needs to agree as well.”

Despite Cuomo’s support, charter school proponents face resistance from teachers unions and many Democratic lawmakers who want to leave the cap unchanged. The issue is “not even on the radar screen,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said recently, according to North Country Public Radio.

Within the last few days the New York State of Politics blog quotes the governor as outlining 10 issues for the end of session and charter schools are not among his priorities.

The leverage has shifted.

An election two weeks ago for a vacant City Council seat may bear on Albany politics. Interim elections to fill vacant seats are non-partisan, no party designations, and New York City matches contribution 8 to 1 .

In an election with numerous candidates the UFT, the teacher union supported a candidate. Farrah Louis who was not favored; however, her educational positions were in line with the positions of the union. She defeated a candidate endorsed by the former City Council member, Jumaane Williams, who is snow the Public Advocate.

The “lesson” is not lost; fighting with the union will have consequences.

Not only will the charter school cap not be lifted it is possible legislation hostile to charter schools may be folded into the “big ugly.”

A few bills dealing with the reauthorization of charter schools and the auditing of charter schools have just been introduced.

Factions will advocate, seek allies, lobby electeds and as the adjournment date, June 19th approaches totally disparate bills will be linked, factions will find “friends,” at least for the moment.

Elections have consequences, charter PAC dollars “elected” Republicans who used their leverage to pass charter friendly legislation; an election cycle later Democrats defeated the charter PAC endorsed candidates, elections have consequences, the leverage switched, and, we can expect that legislation more friendly to teacher unions and public school advocates may become law.

Madison reminded us governmental systems must control themselves, and competing factions are a control.

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices [checks and balances] should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But 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.

 Ideals, factions and politics and  are part of our contentious democracy.

Is the Adversity Score a Tool for Acknowledging Poverty (as a surrogate for race) in College Admissions or a Tool to Enrich the SAT?

About ten years ago I sat in a room with a group of principals and watched/listened to David Coleman’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” kickoff of the Common Core.

At the end of the presentation a teacher in the audience commented, “We’re already using these strategies: what’s new?” Coleman snapped back, “If that’s the case why are our kids doing so poorly?”

I knew we were in trouble.

States adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), tests were aligned with the CCSS, instruction was measured by CCSS and we all anticipated achievement to begin to move up the ladder – we’re still waiting:  NAEP scores remain flat and in New York State test scores are still mired in the lower half of states

The Organization for Education, Co-Operation and Development (OECD) takes a deep dive into reading instruction across the OECD nations, “Measuring Innovation in Education: 2019,” and reports,

It turns out that over 90 percent of U.S. teachers were already regularly doing these Common Core-endorsed practices back in 2006 … for all the Common Core-induced hoopla—there was little obvious change in U.S. practice, while other nations actually spent 2006-2016 doing more of what the U.S. was already doing back in the Bush years.

 Turns out that teacher in the audience was correct.

 I’ve always wondered why ED Hirsch’s Core Knowledge has never caught on, a rich curriculum and high level of instruction in a collaborative environment is the path to student growth. The CCSS and the top down rigid implementation, in my view were doomed to failure.

A decade later another David Coleman “innovation,” the Adversity Index,

The adversity score will be a number ranging from 1 to 100, calculated from 15 factors such as neighborhood crime rates and poverty levels. A score of 50 will be the average; scores above 50 reflect increasing levels of hardship, and scores below indicate higher degrees of privilege. SAT officials indicated that students would not be informed of their adversity scores, but colleges will have access to them as they make admission decisions.

We know that the college admissions process is subject to abuse, the recent scandal: payoffs to get kids into desirable colleges extends far beyond the fifty families cited by the authorities; I believe an example of the “iceberg effect

Colleges are increasingly abandoning the SAT or making SAT scores optional, and the SAT is seeking other sources of revenue.

The adversity score might be attractive to colleges who want to increase student diversity without risking law suits over racially-based admissions policy, and, for the College Board, make up for the income lost due to fewer and fewer schools using the SAT.

Am I cynical? Yes, and, the criticism of the new adversity score tool is widespread,

This “overall disadvantage level” will appear on something the College Board (parent company of the SAT) is calling an “environmental context dashboard.” It incorporates demographic and census data to profile high school students …

Though there are a near infinitude of ways both explicit and subtle to experience challenges in life, the adversity index will restrict itself to just three categories: neighborhood environment (including factors like crime and poverty rates and housing values); family environment (the income, education and marriage status of parents and whether they speak English); and high school environment (aspects like the free lunch rate and rigor of the curriculum).

 The Daily Beast is not only suspicious of Coleman; they criticize the tool as a “retrograde notion that institutionalizes anti-affirmative action views,”

 … like the test-based accountability movement in which David Coleman also played a key role as the moving force behind the Common Core standards, the Index’s single quantitative score is likely to crowd out other important information from admissions assessments. The absence of race and ethnicity has already been widely noted. This decision not only ignores a highly consequential characteristic recognized even by the Supreme Court as a valid diversity factor but also signifies the College Board’s acquiescence to color-blind public policies, a particularly retrograde notion that institutionalizes anti-affirmative action views

 If you want to take a deeper dive into how the adversity score works read Dana Goldstein in the NY Times here.

 I view the adversity score as a way of side-stepping the sensitive question of race and at the same time increasing revenue for the College Board.

I know an Afro-American male, an athlete, who attended a prestigious Division 3 school (no athletic scholarships). He was one of only a handful of black, male students at the college. Other students constantly referred to him “he’s only here because he’s an athlete, and with a scholarship,” both black and an athlete. He wasn’t shy, he responded, “Yes, I’m on a scholarship, provided by my parents, there’s only one of them.”

The adversity score may only succeed in stigmatizing students by race.

The question we should be asking is why some poor students succeed in college and afterwards and why others stumble?  Is it the inadequacy of the school systems that failed to prepare the students, or successfully prepared students? Is the quality of the education at the colleges?

Raj Chetty and his team at Harvard explored the question of economic income mobility, economic diversity and student outcomes. The study used millions of anonymous tax records from college graduates.

Of the 369 “selective public colleges” The City College of New York (CCNY) had the highest economic mobility (Baruch College was # 2)

Overall mobility index

This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at City College of New York moved up two or more income quintiles.

1st out of 369 Selective public colleges

Why are students from City College so successful? Are our public schools far better than we think? Is the college itself providing the instruction and supports?

Students enter the college with poverty level family incomes and a decade after graduation half the students had entered the middle class.

 The adversity score may identify students of color, or, give an advantage to gentrifiers living in changing neighborhoods, or, provide a tool for establishing a quota without mentioning race.

Using “big data” to create an adversity score is a waste of effort, the Chetty use of “big data” is far more meaningful. We have a pretty good idea of why children of color struggle in under resourced schools: a core question: why do some succeed?

Some would argue grit and perseverance: are these “teachable” qualities? Others would argue a rich curriculum, or, a culturally relevant pedagogy, or teachers of color.

Let’s keep investigating.

The Power of Culture: The the Specialized High Schools Admittance Test (SHSAT) Roots are Embedded Deeply in the Past

We visit our favorite Dim Sum restaurant every few weeks and the maitre’d knows we’re teachers. She asked us, “My kids go to Chinese language classes after school every day and all day tutoring for the specialized high schools on Saturday, do you know of a tutoring class after church on Sunday?” You might say: a classic Tiger Mom, yes; however, far more typical among Chinese parents.

An examination system has been at the core of Chinese culture for more than a millennium.

 In China, a system of competitive examinations for recruiting officials that linked state and society and dominated education from the Song dynasty (960–1279) onward, though its roots date to the imperial university established in the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). Candidates faced fierce competition in a series of exams dealing primarily with Confucian texts and conducted on the prefectural, provincial, and national levels. Despite a persistent tendency to emphasize rote learning over original thinking and form over substance, the exams managed to produce an elite grounded in a common body of teachings


 The civil service examination system, a method of recruiting civil officials based on merit rather than family or political connections, played an especially central role in Chinese social and intellectual life from 650 to 1905. Passing the rigorous exams, which were based on classical literature and philosophy, conferred a highly sought-after status, and a rich literati culture in imperial China ensued.

Today the exam system is still at the heart and core of Chinese culture, it is the pathway to a prosperous life.

The Chinese examination, the gaokao is widely considered to be the most important exam which can make or break a young person’s future. It is intended to help level the playing field between the country’s rich and poor … [it is] the academic qualifying test for almost all high school gradates hoping to receive an undergraduate education.

 … their scores in large part determine their future – whether they can go to university, which institutions they will be admitted and consequently what careers await them.

Candidates must perform well in the gaokao to gain admission to the better universities, where graduation guarantees a bright future with status, wealth and even power.

For most Chinese, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, a high score in the gaokao is their only means to significantly alter their fate.

 When electeds or elites or progressives or civil rights advocates tell Chinese families that an examination system, a thousand years old, will no longer be a path to a prosperous life, you can anticipate opposition, vigorous opposition.

In fact, our nation has a long history of antipathy towards Chinese. From the beginnings of Chinese immigration in the mid-nineteenth barriers were erected to immigration, for example the Chinese Exclusion Acts, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that these barriers were lifted; we needed China as an ally. The Chinese laborers who built the transcontinental railroad were virtual slaves, and thousands died and lie in nameless graves.

Chinese are now the largest immigrant group coming to New York City each year. Of the 3.1 million foreign born New Yorkers 10% are Chinese (only Dominicans are a larger group).There are nine “Chinatowns” scattered throughout the city and for the last few years Chinese new immigrants led the list of new arrivals.

The SHSAT fight has mobilized the Chinese community; they have become a political force.

The examination system is embedded in the Chinese psyche, the national culture, and a plan to deprive Chinese students of perceived pathways to prosperity is viewed as Sinophobia.

Chinese aren’t the only supporters of the examination.

Back in my union representative days I worked with a high school with mostly Caribbean students and many Caribbean teachers. The school rep called, a crisis, she was concerned about her state certification. I checked the website, no problems she had passed all the required exams.

Yes, she passed all the required exams, she was dissatisfied with her scores; they were too low, it was embarrassing  and she wanted to take the exams again: she was Jamaican.

The Caribbean population in New York City has been quite successful economically. Many professionals and have moved through the civil service system, teachers, transit authority, nurses, medical technicians, others are small business owners; and, they have been both active and successful in politics. From the City Council to the Albany legislature there are many with Caribbean roots.

And, there are excellent high achieving high schools with students with Caribbean backgrounds.

Medgar Evers High School and  Bedford Prep High School are high achieving screened schools with many students with Caribbean heritage.

At an Assembly hearing on Friday over the SHSAT Jumaane Williams, the newly elected Public Advocate, a specialized high school graduate (Brooklyn Tech), with Jamaican roots clashed with Assemblymember Charles Barron, an Afro-American with Black Panther roots  – it was hot and heavy.

While Williams and Barron agree on a wide range of progressive issues they disagree, rather vehemently on the SHSAT question. Barron argues the test is racist, Williams defends the test and advocates for more gifted schools.

David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Equity and the Transformation of Schools at NYU and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are friends and on the same side of most social justice issues, not the SHSAT

David E. Kirkland‏ @davidekirkland May 13

I supported @JumaaneWilliams from jump. He’s smart and has a righteous commitment to justice. While I support the brother, I couldn’t disagree with him more on the issue of specialized high schools but hold out hope that he (and others) will reconsider their positions on #SHSAT

I doubt Jumaane will change his mind.

The SHSAT inequities have been allowed to fester for years and blame can be attributed to mayors and chancellors; the challenge is how to work within cultures and not require that deeply held cultural beliefs be abandoned.

The New York State Board of Regents and State Education Department Should NOT Allow Charter Schools to Expand Beyond the Eighth Grade (A “Back Door” to Exceeding the Cap).

The cap on the number of charter schools in New York City has been reached and it appears unlikely that the legislature will increase the current cap. At the May, 2019 Board of Regents meeting a question was raised: if an existing charter school plans to extend its grades beyond the eighth grade, in essence creating a high school, would the new configuration constitute a new school and violate the cap?  The State Education attorney did not think so; the extended school would remain as a single charter entity.

The extended charter would essentially be creating a new high school, and, I believe, would not comply with the spirit and intent of the charter school law.

While the extension may, or may not, exceed the cap the extension does not comply with the reasons for the granting of a charter

The law lists specific reasons for the creation of charter schools,

 The purpose of this article is to authorize a system of charter schools to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently of existing schools and school districts in order to accomplish the following objectives:

 (a) Improve student learning and achievement;

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

(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;

(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, school administrators and other school personnel;

(e) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and

(f) Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the school

 Charter schools have primarily been located in geographic areas with low-achieving public schools offering parents an alternative to traditional public schools.

In New York City traditional public high schools are not “neighborhood schools.” The application process to high schools applies to all high schools and allows students to make twelve choices and matches students to schools; over 90% of students receive one of their top three choices.

There are 419 high schools and educational option programs within high schools. The choices of schools are extremely broad; the vast majority of schools are theme-based, from law to health sciences, to vocational subjects to culinary arts, the list is enormous and all encompassing In addition forty schools, the Consortium Schools, offer a portfolio system in lieu of regents examinations. The over 100  innovative PROSE schools  offer a wide range of alternative scheduling, from longer periods and fewer daily periods to trimesters instead of annual or semester systems, (See appendices on the link above for specific school innovations) The Internationals Network (16 schools) only accept students who have been in the country for less than four years, with extraordinary successes and far exceed student performance in charter schools. There are fifty Transfer High Schools for students who are overage and under-credited.

The current high school system provide(s) parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities, as well as encourage(s) the use of different and innovative teaching methods and provides schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

 The current elaborate system of high schools provides, within the current system, the goals that the charter school law lists.

There is no need for the creation of further charter high schools.

The adding of a ninth and additional grades in a current charter school is simply an attempt to bypass the cap,  is unnecessary, and antithetical to the law.

High school graduation rates have been steadily increasing. The school performance dashboards offer comparisons of schools as well as school specific data with a few clicks.

I would encourage the Regents and the State Education Department not to entertain any requests to expand grades beyond the eighth grade in any existing charter school.

The Gentrification of Schools: Creating More “Gifted Schools” Must Not Diminish Schools Serving All Students

School segregation/integration, whether in the elite high schools (Stuyvesant, etc.,), the over 100 screened high schools and middle schools or the elementary school Gifted and Talented programs haunts the educational and political establishment.

The UCLA Civil Rights Project, in a detailed report, found New York City to be one of the most segregated school systems in the nation and the city continues to struggle to address the albatross. Chancellor Carranza was the superintendent in San Francisco and faced a similar issue: a plan to integrate schools; rather than integrating schools the San Francisco plan further segregated schools. “San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse,”

“Parental choice has not been the leveler of educational opportunity it was made out to be. Affluent parents are able to take advantage of the system in ways low-income parents cannot, or they opt out of public schools altogether. What happened in San Francisco suggests that without remedies like wide-scale busing, or school zones drawn deliberately to integrate; school desegregation will remain out of reach.”

There are no “easy” or obvious answers; gentrification and intense poverty as well as alternatives to public schools, i. e., charter, private and religious schools complicate finding solutions.

In New York City the electeds, advocates, alumni, unions all have entered the fray; all offer “solutions.”

At the top of the agenda the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), namely, the test to gain acceptance to Stuyvesant, Bronx School of Science, Brooklyn Tech and the five small schools added by Bloomberg.

The entrance examination to the “specialized high schools” is embedded in state law and only a handful of Afro-American students are admitted, in other words, passed the test.

Mayor de Blasio raced ton Albany in the waning days of the session last June and introduced a bill to eliminate the Specialized High School Admittance Test, the de Blasio plan was dead on arrival. The Mayor’s current plan is an enhanced Discovery Program, extensive tutoring of students who fell just below the cut score and admit students who successfully complete the Discovery process.

.The leader of the New York State Assembly will be holding public hearing in May. Corey Johnson, the leader of the New York City Council, and a contender for mayor in 2021 is appointing a commission and has already proposed spinoffs of the Specialized High Schools across the city. The Alumni Associations of the legacy specialized schools have hired high clout lobbyists. A new set of players are heavyweights, Ronald Lauder and Richard Parsons, who have created their own advocacy group, backed by heavy dollars with a set of specific recommendations.

* Double the Number of Specialized High Schools
* Improve the Middle Schools
* Invest in Free SHSAT Prep for Every Student Citywide
* Ask Every 8th Grader to Take the SHSAT
* A Gifted and Talent Program in Every District

These are terrible ideas! The gentrification of schools: “gifted schools” pushing out public schools. All schools should provide education for all students, high achieving, “average” students, “struggling” students as well as students seeking a Career and Technical Education pathway.

WEB DuBois, in 1903 essay coined the term “Talented Tenth,” the Lauder/Parsons plan is in the spirit of De Bois,

“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.”

The Lauder/Parsons plan would further segregate schools, this time by academic ability and depress achievement in the remainder of schools; it would create a tale of two school systems.

“Free SHSAT prep for every student” would turn middle schools into test prep mills, antithetical to everything we believe about education.

So, what should we do?

* Align the SHSAT with State Standards, in other words test kids on what is taught in day-to-day classrooms
* Set a numerical quota for each Middle School (based on school size) and select the highest scorers on the revised SHSAT
* Half of all students would be admitted by the traditional method and half by the method described above

The SHSAT is not an intelligence test; in fact, the psychometric approach to defining intelligence has been thoroughly refuted.

Robert Sternberg challenged the psychometric approach to defining intelligence, Sternberg argues,

* Training of intellectual performance must be socio-culturally relevant to the individual
* A training program should provide links between the training and real-world behavior.
* A training program should provide explicit instruction in strategies for coping with novel tasks/situations
* A training program should provide explicit instruction in both executive and non-executive information processing and interactions between the two.
* Training programs should actively encourage individuals to manifest their differences in strategies and styles.

Unfortunately the SHSAT has remained unchanged for almost half a century.

Over a thousand colleges and universities no longer use a test, the SAT or the ACT, it “optional” in many schools and totally abandoned in others.

In the screened middle and high schools we should move to an Education Option-type system. In the first year 25% of students would be admitted by “blind choice,” a lottery of student with achievement in the 15-67-16 (16% more than .5 standard deviations below the mean and 16% .5 standard deviations above the mean) range using combined reading and math scores; the percentage of kids in the “blind choice” group can be increase over time until the student selection process is 50-50.

All schools providing an appropriate education for all student; be they Gifted or Special Education or English Language Learners.

The charter cap must not be raised; we don’t want parents flocking to the equivalent of screened schools to escape public schools.

I believe the result would be far more integrated schools, and far better schools.  You can have schools with Advanced Placement classes and vocational classes in the same school. Heterogeneous classes, classes  kids with disparate reading scores requires different pedagogy, and, there is a ton of research that says heterogeneous classrooms increases academic outcomes for all kids.

Am I hopeful?

We live in a highly politicized world; electeds may put their finger in the air and respond to this electorate, others protecting powerful institutions.

Bills currently pending in the Assembly:

  • A02173Relates to admission to a specialized high school in the city of New York
  • A03223Relates to establishing the commission on diversity in specialized schools
  • A03944Requires the New York city department of education to study and report on students who would likely pass the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test
  • A03981Relates to the creation of a pre-specialized high schools admissions test and preparation program

At a Medgar Evers College event a few years ago an Afro-American high school student asked, “Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?”

I’m always hopeful.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on the 2020 Census Citizenship Question: Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for New York State in Danger

Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution requires an “enumeration;” a census every ten years,

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (meaning slaves). The actual Enumeration shall be made … every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct

For the first time since 1950 a citizenship question was added to the census.

The administration budgeted one billion dollars less than requested, and, the major point of contention: a question dealing with citizenship status which could discourage participation in the Census even though the census professional staff ruled the citizenship question inappropriate the Secretary of Commerce included the citizenship question.

The citizenship question was challenged in the federal courts and, in a scathing decision the courts sustained the appellants and ruled the question inappropriate.

Plaintiffs proved at trial that, if the citizenship question is added to the 2020 census questionnaire, they will suffer serious harm in the form of lost political representation, lost federal funding, and degradation of information that is an important tool of state sovereignty.  And at least two of those injuries, the loss of political representation and the degradation of information would be irreparable, without any adequate remedy at law.

 Measured against these standards, Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census —even if it did not violate the Constitution itself —was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside. To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition —central to the rule of law —that ours is a government of law and not of men.” And it would do so with respect to what Congress itself has described as “one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government perform” (Read entire decision here)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today.  The issues before the court:

Issues: (1) Whether the district court erred in enjoining the secretary of the Department of Commerce from reinstating a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census on the ground that the secretary’s decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act;; (2) whether, in an action seeking to set aside agency action under the APA, a district court may order discovery outside the administrative record to probe the mental processes of the agency decision maker — including by compelling the testimony of high-ranking executive branch officials — without a strong showing that the decision-maker disbelieved the objective reasons in the administrative record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or acted on a legally forbidden basis; and (3) whether the secretary’s decision to add a citizenship question to the decennial census violated the enumeration clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Census will determine representation in the House of Representatives, New York State could lose two seats if the undercount is the same as in 2010, and, fifty-five federal programs are determined by population, New York State could lose hundreds of  millions in federal dollars. The State receives 1.6 billion in federal education dollars.

Maya Wiley, an MSNBC contributor and a Professor at the New York School University made a troubling presentation a few weeks ago.

The 2020 Census will be the first on-line Census. It is grossly underfunded and the federal administration in Washington has raised significant concerns for immigrants, legal residents and other vulnerable people. The New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory has been working on a project to support greater collaborative work between libraries, community leaders and city governments in the New York region to support a fair and safe Census.

 The CUNY Mapping Service  lays out the data and the challenges: “low response scores,” “population groups with increased risks of being undercounted,” “households with no computer or inadequate internet access,” by neighborhood.

The Bureau of Census, the advocates and the newly appointed New York City Census Director, Julie Menin are planning to work with libraries, and community organizations, an excellent plan; however, why aren’t schools at the center of the plan?

I e-communicated with Julie Menin, and did receive a thumbs up.

There are 1800 schools, 1.1 million kids and over 100,000 highly motivated teachers and paraprofessionals. Schools have staff members to match the language of their students, and close relationships with families.

Why isn’t the Department of Education at the center of a census outreach plan?

The teacher union is enthusiastic and understands the vital importance; an undercount means loss of jobs and vital services to children and families.

In addition every high school senior must take a course entitled, “Participation in Government,”

This course aims to provide students with opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship. Content specifications are not included, so that the course can adapt to present local, national, and global circumstances, allowing teachers to select flexibly from current events to illuminate key ideas and conceptual understandings. Participation in government and in our communities is fundamental to the success of American democracy.

The course can engage students in census field work across the state, a powerful tool to maximize participation in the census, a powerful activity to involve students in civics, in real live activities.

While the Census is a year away now is the time to create an inclusive plan.

The Specialized High Schools and the admittance test and grades 3-8 Standardized Testing dominate the news cycle while the Census is barely acknowledged.

I hope that State Commissioner Elia instructs her staff to post Census lessons on the EngageNY website as well as instruct school district leaders to provide Census outreach in each and every school in the state.

I am hopeful that Chancellor Carranza will appoint a Census Coordinator, a vital position considering what’s at stake.

Let’s be honest, the citizenship question is a direct assault on “blue” cities and states intended to reduce their political clout by reducing their electoral votes as well as “punishing” them with fewer dollars: the ultimate cynicism

Will the five conservatives on the Court cast “political” votes?  I fear another Bush v Gore, a decision that ignores the rule of law, a decision that tries to entrench political power from the anti-democratic right.

The decision is due in June.