Tag Archives: Bloomberg

Should the American Federation of Teachers Endorse a Candidate in the Democratic Primaries? If so, Who Should They Endorse?

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has done an excellent job in engaging democratic candidates in discussions with teachers. At the 2018 AFT Convention Warren, Klobuchar, Sanders and Biden spoke, all gave passionate pro-public education, pro-teacher, pro-union speeches. Most of the candidates have attended AFT-sponsored town halls, live-streamed, a back and forth conversation with classroom, union-activist teachers; on December 10th, in Pittsburgh, the AFT will host a forum among the leading candidates.

Chalkbeat has collected the education policies for each of the candidates here.

The AFT is in no hurry to endorse a candidate and clearly wants as much membership involvement as possible. A few local AFT unions have already made endorsements, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) endorsed Bernie Sanders, the largest local, the United Federation of Teachers, in New York City is moving much more slowly.

The current national polls are swinging widely.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s support among Democratic primary voters nationwide plunged 50 percent over the past month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, signaling that the shake-ups in the primary field are far from over.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has retaken the lead in the poll after an autumn that saw him surrender his solid frontrunner status, climbing 3 points to earn 24 percent in the poll. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., surged into second, rising 6 points to 16 percent, with Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders not far behind at 14 and 13 percent, respectively.

Buttigieg, aka, Mayor Pete, while surging in the polls has no Afro-American support and a searing article in The Root.com, a widely read online website on Afro-American entertainment and politics  (“pete-buttigieg-is-a-lying-mf”) is sharply critical. Can a candidate win without widespread Afro-American support?

The key date, three months away, is March 3rd, Super Tuesday, fourteen states will elected 40% of delegates, that’s right, 40% of the delegates who will select the candidate at the Democratic National Convention (July 13-16). The two states with the largest number of delegates, California and Texas, will elect delegates on Super Tuesday.

Rules on who can vote are set at the state level, New York State is a “closed” primary state, you must be a registered Democrat to vote in the April 28th primary (you can change registration until February 14th), some other states are “open” primary states, any registered voter, Republican, Democrat or not registered in any party can vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries; these are referred to as “cross-over” states.

The addition of Bloomberg and his thirty-five million dollars may, or may not impact the race. Will Texans be attracted to the 78-year old anti-gun, environmentalist former New York City mayor?  My Texan friends tell me the real motto of Texas should be “God, Guns and Sports,” not exactly topics on which Bloomberg has any interest.

Politico  speculates on Bloomberg’s plan to win in the delegate-rich states by attracting “Never Trump” Republicans who will “cross-over” to vote for Bloomberg along with right-center-Democrats and/or Biden supporters.  Bloomberg is currently polling at 3% and will not be in the December debates or campagning in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, the primaires before Super Tuesday.

Tom Steyer, the other billionaire in the race has plastered his commercials across the screen. Steyer argues, as do the right wing “populists” across Europe, that democracy is broken and what the county needs is an outsider, ignoring the other two branches of government; although Steyer argues he’s a progressive, he has the same disrespect for democratic institutions as Trump and “populists” in Hungary, Poland, Italy and Germany.

Bloomberg is in the Steyer mold, moving from Democrat to Republican to Democrat using his enormous fortune to win elections.

Teachers are divided between Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg factions; the only agreement is a distinct dislike of Bloomberg, perhaps dislike is too mild a term!

Teachers are working on the ground in all the campaigns, in my view, why alienate members who are committed to candidates who have pro-education, pro-teacher and pro-union platforms by selecting one at this point?

In New York City the union is forming political action teams across the city, with training sessions. Five elections coming up over the next year and a half: presidential primary (April 28), state primary elections for the Senate and the Assembly (late June), the November presidential, City Council and City-Wide primaries in June, 2021 and City Council and City-Wide offices in November 2021.

With well over 100,000 members in New York City the teacher union is a significant force in any election. Endorsement decisions must be bottom-up, representing the views of members who are anxious to go door to door. In the special election to fill the office of public advocate all the candidates were invited to meet with union members. I asked the “charter school” questions to the candidates, I think eight candidates. We ended up by endorsing no one; all the candidates were supportive of our issues. A few months later the union interviewed for an open seat on the City Council and choose an outsider who simply was the most knowledgeable about education issues: she won!!

Who am I supporting? Is it too late for Michelle Obama to get involved in the race?

Why Have New York City Homicides (1990: 2262) Declined So Precipitously (2016: 335)? Can Small Schools Connecting with Students Be at the Core?

At the height of the crack epidemic (1990) there were 2262 homicides in New York City; in 2016 there were 335 homicides – incredible. (Check out NYC crime data here).

While homicide rates continue at high level in city after city the rates in New York City continue to decline, probably below 300 for 2017.

What are we doing right?

See top 30 city homicide rates here.

Not only are homicide rates high the rates are breaking records in a number of cities.

In spite of the spotlight homicide rates in Chicago continue to spike: The Atlantic takes a deep dive into the persistently high homicide rates.

Criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, electeds have all parsed the reams of data to attempt to provide an answer: why has the homicide rate in New York City continued to decline, to decline precipitously while in other cities the rates have been persistently high or increasing?

Broken Windows” Policing and “Stop and “Frisk”

The eight years of Giuliani and the twelve years of Bloomberg were years of what critics called “harsh” policing. Arresting turnstile jumpers and public intoxicators, “stop and frisk” widely used in communities of color targeting young men of color, policies that both administrations claim reduced homicide rates.

A 2000 National Bureau of Economic Research study reports,

Many attribute New York’s crime reduction to specific “get-tough” policies carried out by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration. The most prominent of his policy changes was the aggressive policing of lower-level crimes, a policy which has been dubbed the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement. In this view, small disorders lead to larger ones and perhaps even to crime.

 In Carrots, Sticks and Broken Windows (NBER Working Paper No. 9061), co-authors Hope Corman and Naci Mocan find that the “broken windows” approach does not deter as much crime as some advocates argue, but it does have an effect

 Skeptics believe that it was the economic boom of the 1990s – a “carrot” that encourages people to remain on the straight-and-narrow – that brought about the drop in crime rates in New York City and the nation.

 The contribution of such deterrence measures (the “stick”) offers more explanation for the decline in New York City crime than the improvement in the economy, the authors conclude.

 So, “broken windows” had an impact; although not as much as claimed by the proponents.

However, Mayor de Blasio ended “stop and frisk” and arrests for low level misdemeanors have ended, homicides continue to spiral downward, and, at a faster rate.

 The Impact of Legalized Abortion

 A far more controversial theory comes from the “freakonomics” guys called the Donohue-Leavitt Hypothesis  that proffers that the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision, the legal accessibility of abortions, resulted in sharp decreases in a generation of potential victims and perpetrators.  Males from poor dysfunctional households who were not born could not be victims or perps therefore resulting in sharp decreases in serious crime rates. The hypothesis has been vigorously debated.


 Gentrification is defined as “… the renovation of a deteriorating urban neighborhood by means of the influx of more affluent residents.” The process in New York City has been accelerating; Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, Williamsburg, Washington Heights and other neighborhoods have seen the steady flow of middle class families into the neighborhoods pushing the poorer residents into existing “ghetto” neighborhoods.  New York State Juvenile Justice Task Force data shows that juvenile perpetrators are increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer neighborhoods. The concentration of potential victims and perpetrators into smaller geographic areas make it easier to police neighborhoods.

Some would argue that while gentrification pushes the poor out of neighborhoods and increases racial and economic segregation; a positive byproduct could be the reduction of crime.

Small High Schools

 Disconnected youth is defined as youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working and not in school. Higher crime/arrest rates, higher controlled substance involvement, high pregnancy rates, a long list of negative metrics, and, cities and states around the nation are struggling to create programs to engage youth.

A detailed report, “One in Seven: Disconnected  Youth in the 25 Largest Metropolitan Areas” parses the data, Boston and Minneapolis have the lowest percentages, Phoenix the highest; however, there is no correlation that I could discern between serious crime and disconnected youth by city. New York City is 17th out of the 25 Metro areas; however, much lower homicide rates.

I could not find crime rates among disconnected youth by city. We do know that victims and perpetrators are more likely not to be in school and not working.

New York City has done a commendable job of keeping school-age kids engaged in the school system.

I proffer that keeping 16 to 21 year olds engaged in school plays a role in reducing homicide rates

Beginning in the late eighties, increasing in the nineties and sharply accelerating under Bloomberg the Board and successor Department of Education closed large high schools and replaced them with small high schools. There are currently about 400 small high schools and programs by and large located in the former large high school buildings. The school registers are about 400 students. An MDRP study finds,

… small schools tended to have common traits, including a rigorous curriculum, often built around themes like conservation and law, and highly personalized relationships between students and teachers.

The schools have also formed partnerships with community groups and businesses to offer hands-on learning experiences.

The predecessor large high schools commonly had registers of over 2000 kids, and, sadly, many had high absentee rates, large class sizes and the absence of services.

I served as the teacher union representative on numerous Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) teams; too many schools has passed the tipping point; they had become dropout mills with large percentages of disengaged students characterized by long term absentees, cutting classes, high failure rates in classes and on Regents exams

After the 1975 fiscal crisis the school system was an afterthought, the Koch administration had little interest in schools, the decentralized school system, with exceptions, was dominated by venal politicians and patronage. Schools were starved for resources and the most disadvantaged schools suffered.

The Bloomberg administration, for his first two terms, plowed dollars into schools, (2003-2011) sharp increases in teacher salaries and a concentration on creating small schools.

While you can argue that increasing graduations rates were due to credit recovery and other management tools, the more “personalized relationships between students and teachers” cannot be disputed.  The small high schools “connected” with students.

When school leaders and teachers know the name of every kid, engage with the kids on a daily basis, kids feel part of a community.

Kids who were not surviving in small high schools, students who were “overage age and under-credited” have another chance – transfer high schools. There are fifty transfer high schools scattered around the city. A hearing in Brooklyn held by the New York State Department of Education asking for public comment around the ESSA plan and the mandated 67% graduation rate, endangering transfer high schools,  student after student, parent after parent testified how the transfer high school had saved their lives.

Only about half of the students in transfer high school graduate, a cohort, who did not succeed in small high schools, who do not succeed in a transfer school have another chance, the Pathways to Graduation program, targeting students from 17 – 21 years of age, Pathways prepares students for the high school equivalency examination, formerly the GED, now the TASC exam – once again, a program built on personalized relationships between students and teachers.

I proffer that students in the New York City school system are less likely to be disconnected. Students who struggle with academics, students from single parent or dysfunctional households, students living in gang-infested neighborhoods are “connected” with their school staffs.

The culture of these programs connects students to staffs, builds communities, acts as an alternative to the streets, and, in my opinion, plays a role in reducing homicide rates.

Smaller schools, smaller class size, schools with flexible programming, student advisory classes addressing social and emotional needs, students not left to be won over by the streets, meaning fewer disconnected youth, means fewer kids likely to be victims or perpetrators.

Smarter policing not harsher policing, more job opportunities, higher wages, all play roles;  the impact of schools have been ignored in parsing the reasons for declining homicide rates.

I allowed kids to pick their own seats in my high school classroom. On day one a student picked the seat right in front of my desk. He was small for his age, too much acne, and the other kids used unkind language, today we’d call bullying.

One day he apologized before the class began.

“I’m sorry – I didn’t do my homework, I was practicing with my band.”

Offhandedly, I replied, “Is the band any good?”

The student, hesitantly, replied, “Yes.”

Me: “Do you have a cassette?”

The kid beamed, “Sure”

I gave the cassette to my son who has a friend who books acts, he said they weren’t bad, they should book performances at open mike venues and try and build up a following. I passed the info along to the kid.

Years later I was walking down a street and someone shouted, “Mr. G”

It was the same student.

Me: “Did you’re band make it …?”

Kid: Smiling, “We weren’t good enough, I was the sound guy, and I became a sound technician, make good money, thanks for the advice.”

We do our job and impact lives; usually we never know the impact we have.








The New, Feisty Board of Regents Explores Principal Preparation: Why Don’t We Have Better Principals?

[Election Update: Yuh Line Niou won the six-way primary in Shelly Silver’s former district as well as all other Ed in the Apple endorsed candidates with the exception of Robert Jackson; however, the Bloomberg/Charter candidate, Micah Lasher lost to a candidate supported by the Independent Democratic Coalition – the breakaway gang of five that caucuses with the Republicans]

The new Board of Regents is a feisty group!!

The Board is a policy board; they hire the CEO, the commissioner, and set overall policy for the state. The line between what is policy and what are operations is a blurred line: a prime example.

In December the Regents voted to accept the 21 recommendations of the Cuomo Task Force on the Common Core.

Recommendation 15: Undertake a formal review to determine whether to transition to untimed tests for existing and new State standardized test aligned to the standards.

A month later the Department announced a shift to untimed tests;  the “formal review” apparently did not involve the Board.

Initially the Commissioner was ecstatic over the unparalleled one year jump in test scores, until the Chancellor, Betty Rosa tuned down the exuberance.  Without knowing which students took extended time the state has set a new baseline, there can be no valid comparisons – you cannot compare apples to oranges. The Regents members were clearly unhappy – why weren’t they involved in the “formal review?”

Under the leadership of Chancellor Tisch and John King, with a few exceptions, the Board was quiescent.

The current members are activists, in order to create policy they clearly intend to take a deep dive into the issue. A prime example: the four exams required for teacher certification. The co-chairs of the Higher Education Committee have held forums all over the state, hundreds of college staff, and degree seekers, have attended and testified. The Board is leading the steps to reconfigure the teacher preparation process that was imposed by Tisch/King.

No longer does the Chancellor and the Commissioner run the show. Chancellor Rosa epitomizes collaborating with her Regent partners.

The September 12th Regents Meeting began with a detailed exploration of a new grant from the Wallace Foundation:  the Principal Preparation Project. In prior years the project would have landed with the Regents Research Fellows with a nary a word of discussion with the Regents members. The world has changed.

After a Power Point presentation the new Board peppered the Deputy Commissioner with questions;

Regent Johnson mused over the purpose of the project.  We must acknowledge the impact of poverty, issues of race and changing demographics. Why weren’t Civil Rights organizations on the team? Regent Mead was concerned over the three years of teaching as a minimum requirement – New York City has a seven year requirement. Regent Norwood was wondering why social/emotional issues appeared absent from the project as well as working in diverse environments, and, the retention of leaders in low performing schools were absent. Regent Brown was concerned with the absence of diversity concerns in the project, should issues of race, i. e., “white privilege” and “cultural competency,” be included in project curriculum?

The discussion went on and on….

In order to become a principal in New York State the applicant must complete an “approved” program; however, the selection is by the elected lay school board, or, in New York City, by the Chancellor; all the state does is create an applicant pool.

A little history:

The first wave of reform swept the nation after the Civil War and culminated in the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883 – establishing a federal civil service system. The reform movement moved to the states, and, after the creation of New York City (“The Great Consolidation”), the merging of the five boroughs, the legislature moved to reform a political hiring system, by creating a Board of Examiners.

Read a history of principal selection here: https://mets2006.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/the-quest-for-the-leadership-gene-how-do-we-findselect-the-best-school-leaders/

From rigorous examinations to a handful of credits and selection by elected Community School Boards to the Leadership Academy, we haven’t found any magic bullets.

Half-jokingly, I mused that maybe there was a leadership gene. Maybe I’m right!

… a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behaviour between individuals can be explained by genes passed down from their parents. – See more at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0113/15012013-leadership-genetics#sthash.Nmnip8lR.dpuf

If you ask teachers about supervisor competence you will find a wide variability, some praise school leaders, many more are critical.  An NYU Study a few years ago, using student scores on state exams as a measurement: insignificant differences between Leadership Academy and non-Leadership Academy principals.

I have a few questions:

* What percentages of applicants are accepted into leadership programs? Is the quality of the applicant’s teaching part of the applicant selection process, and, if so, how do you measure the quality? (I fear programs accept the vast percentage of applicants)

* Are online or blended learning courses acceptable? Are these courses of the same quality as face-to-face courses?

* How often does the supervising teacher visit the candidate? Four times a year? Weekly? What is the quality of the internship? How is it measured?

* What percentage of candidates find jobs within five years? How successful are the candidates as supervisors and how do we measure success?

The finest leadership I have seen is the leadership provided by coaches, whether athletic, music or dance.

The ultimate question: is this project worthwhile?  Since the state does not hire or supervise principals can changing the requirements actually change who gets hired?  Do we have to change the “hirers” before we can change the “hirees”?

Looking ahead: every state must comply with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and design a state plan -more about the process in my next post.

Are Suspensions a Pipeline to Prison or a Valid Response to Unacceptable Behavior? How Do Suspensions Impact the Behavior of the Other Students in the Class? Are Afro-American Parents Opposed to Suspensions?

Three years ago we were in the midst of a hotly contested mayoral election. Four high profile Democrats were battling for the democrat line on the November ballot. Bill Thompson, an Afro-American, had given Bloomberg a close run in 2009, the President of the City Counsel, Christine Quinn, the Comptroller, John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were dashing from forum to forum. When the dust settled not only did de Blasio win he won 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff. A key was clearly his early and vigorous opposition to Bloomberg’s “Stop and Frisk” and the Dante TV commercial..

de Blasio received more Afro-American votes than Thompson, the only Afro-American in the race. Virtually every Afro-American male in the city, regardless of their income or residence has a story. A cop stopping them for no apparent reason, treating them as if they were a  criminal, a victim of “walking or driving while black.”

During his three years de Blasio fulfilled his campaign promises, he has been the progressive mayor, seemingly vying for the leadership of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and, watching polling numbers drop.

The NY Post and the Daily News have criticized him daily, the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Initiate also taking shots at the mayor and Governor Cuomo has made it clear, he, Cuomo, not de Blasio, is the leader of the Democratic Party in the state.

A year away from the next election and the vultures are circling, de Blasio seems wounded, and possible opponents are smelling the carcass.

At this point there is no “Stop and Frisk” issue, at least not until after the November presidential. A Hillary presidency would put a totally different spin – she could endorse de Blasio, or, send out an “I support Bill” message, or, remain aloof. Crime continues to fall to historic levels; the city is prosperous, what are the issues?

Lack of affordable housing, high taxes, homelessness, poverty, undocumented immigration, crowded subways: the list goes on and on; are any of these issues core election issues? Can they grab the electorate?

The Dante TV commercial and de Blasio’s early outspoken opposition to Stop and Frisk, in my view, catapulted him to victory in 2013.

Is there a core issue in 2017 that will create a path to victory?

First, who are the potential voters?  An NYU Wagner report in 2013 parsed likely voters. Older, better educated, higher incomes and union members are more likely to vote,

See a detailed analysis of likely voters by neighborhood before the 2013 mayoral election:

Prime voter lists and detailed voter information can be purchased – see what you can find out about likely voters: http://gograssroots.org/files/analyzevoters.pdf

Potential voters are extremely diverse, by ethnicity, by income, by age, by education, by race and by religion or lack thereof.

Getting back to issues: will suspensions be the stop and frisk issue of 2017?

Are schools (i. e., suspensions) the pipeline to prison tropes so deeply ingrained in minority and liberal voters that it will emerge as the core issue? See Atlantic articles here  and here; and, as the Department of Education, perhaps responding to harsh criticism from the teacher and principal unions, backs away, even ever so slightly the Atlantic and progressives shove back.

While the suspension/pipeline to prison issue resonates in progressive circles, both white and black, does it resonate among Afro-American parents?

A year or so ago I was at an education forum, during a break a teacher was engaging with an Afro-American charter school parent. The teacher was telling the parent, “Charters throw out the disruptive kids.” The parent answered, “That’s exactly why I send my child to a charter school.”

You cannot simply use the term, “Afro-American voters,” who do you mean?   Older black voters?  Millennial black voters? Caribbean voters? See fascinating breakdown of voting trends by neighborhood here.

Caribbean voters (Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti) tend to be socially conservative, church-goers, union members, prefer kids to wear uniforms to school, and, I would argue far more likely to support strict discipline in schools. Highly educated black intellectuals firmly support the school to prison pipeline concept: David Kirkland director of  the Metro Center at NYU chairs the  Commission for Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

 If we trace backwards: are kids who end up in criminal justice and/or fail to graduate high school more likely to have been suspended in school. Did the suspension(s) lead to poor academics and/or antisocial behavior? Could alternative disciplinary procedures such as restorative justice practices or Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports  (PBIS) avert the negative outcomes associated with suspensions?  Do suspensions so stigmatize the student that future negative behaviors are to be expected?  On the other hand, how do suspensions impact the other students in the classroom?  Does the removal of disruptive students improve educational outcomes for the remainder of the class?

Complex issues and issues that are firmly held.

Interested in becoming a campaign consultant?

Mayoral Control, Appointed or Elected Boards of Education: Are Urban School Districts Governable?

About 4 AM next Friday morning one of houses of the state legislature will adjourn closing out the session; with cries of they have to return over the summer to complete this issue or that issue. Extremely unlikely.

The bills will come across the legislators desks at a rapid pace, with most voted before they are read. A few are high profile: closing loopholes in the campaign finance law, legalizing fantasy sports gambling, a constitutional amendment to deprive convicted legislators of their pensions, and, mayoral control of New York City schools, the vast majority of the bills are far, far under the radar.

The Assembly bill extends mayoral control for three years; the Senate bill extends mayoral control for one year and creates an Inspector, appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate with sweeping powers. If no action is taken the system reverts to a seven-member board appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor.

The governor supports a three year extension and the power elites support continuing mayoral control. Merryl Tisch in an op ed in the NY Daily News supports extending mayoral control.

Tisch posits,

Mayoral control has not worked perfectly under either Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Mayor de Blasio, but it has worked far better than what we had before. New York City has seen consistent, significant increases in graduation rates, greater accountability across the system and the introduction of robust school choice — giving students from every neighborhood greater opportunity for a quality education. Critically, unlike the system that preceded mayoral control, we now know who is in charge. The voters ultimately can hold the CEO of the city accountable for how well our children learn.

Famously, when someone criticized a Bloomberg educational policy he responded, “Don’t vote for me next time.”

Although the mayoral control debate will end in a few days it has been characterized by an absence of debate.

Has “robust school choice” given “students from every neighborhood greater opportunity for quality education” or further segregated the school system by race, class and income?

The Bloomberg administration created scores of “screened” schools, schools that only accepts kids with high test scores, creating “have” and “have not” schools. Were these schools created to “provide school choice” or to win over middle class parents and garner potential voters?

Numbers of school suspensions have dropped dramatically: are our kids better behaved, do our teachers have been peace-making skills or did the chancellor simply tighten the faucet on approving suspensions?

Under a mayoral control system every announcement, every initiative is accompanied by a carefully crafted press release. I’m sure that the “mayor’s person” is sitting at the table vetting the political impact of every decision.

The previous seven-member appointed board has been vilified as being too political, I have to smile. The borough president appointee fought for projects for their borough while the mayor fights for projects for the entire city, or, his/her voting base.

Under the current mayoral control system the Community Educational Councils (CEC) are toothless and superintendents carry the Tweed policy torch. While under the prior elected school board system the poorest districts had the least effective boards there were highly effective boards that responded to local communities.

District 2 in Manhattan under the leadership of an innovative superintendent had an extensive and effective professional development program that impacted classroom instruction. District 22 in Brooklyn bused over 1,000 Afro-American kids for integration purposes, no court order, it was simply the right thing to do; they also implemented school-based budgeting with empowered school and district leadership teams. A superintendent in the poorest district in Brooklyn, appointed by the chancellor unified a fractious district and improved student outcomes.

Does the current mayoral-guided system build sustainability or will the next and the next school district leader impose their view of education policy?

Unfortunately educational policy appears to be the flavor of the week.

Transparency and open debate must guide all change processes. Participation reduces resistance.

Teachers and parents increasingly came to despise Bloomberg/Klein mayoral control hubris – if you don’t like the policy, don’t vote for me.  So far the de Blasio/Farina interregnum has had a kinder and gentler face. While Bloomberg/Klein treated teachers like replaceable widgets deBlasio/Farina have constantly praised the workforce.

The larger issue is creating a process that has highly competent leadership at the top and local leaders with the ability and support to make the right decisions at the school level.

Next week a decision will be made; probably to continue mayoral control, maybe with a blue ribbon commission to review the current iteration.

Parents, teachers and school leaders voice must be part of any school governance process.

Payback is a Bitch: de Blasio, Cuomo the Senate Republicans and Mayoral Control

Payback is a bitch!!

The New York State legislature is due to adjourn on June 16th – two more weeks till the end of the session – commonly referred to as the “big ugly.”  The 150 members of the Assembly, the 63 members of the Senate and the Governor all wheeling and dealing to bring their favorite bills to votes.

One of the few major outstanding issues is mayoral control of schools in New York City.

A little history: after two contentious teacher strikes (1967 and 1968), inner city riots around the country and the assassination of Martin Luther King, the mayor of NYC, John Lindsay was desperately seeking a way to pacify the bubbling racially-based anger across the city. The “answer” was decentralizing the school system. The decentralization law created a seven-member central board, one appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor, and thirty (later increased to 32) community school districts with elected boards and wide-ranging power over budget, curriculum and the appointment of school and district leadership.

A handful of districts thrived, the poorest districts became patronage pits for the local electeds; scandal after scandal and extremely low student achievement. The legislature that created the patronage system had no interest in ending it and the mayor, Ed Koch, effectively manipulated the system; claiming credit for successes and trashing it over perceived failures.

In 2002 newly elected mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he favored legislation to repeal the decentralization system and create a mayoral control system. A school board, the majority appointed by the mayor and community councils with extremely limited authority. Mayoral control was supported across the political landscape as well as supported by the unions.

The legislature passed and renewed the law a number of times without opposition – except from Sol Stern. In the City Journal, Stern sharply criticized Bloomberg, who Stern felt was skillfully manipulating school data to burnish his own reputation. Stern presaged what became an all-out assault on Bloomberg’s education policies in his final term.

Last year the legislature, at least the Republican-controlled Senate balked and mayoral control was only extended for one year.

In the spirit of his predecessor de Blasio has spun out presser after presser announcing educational initiative after initiative, Among de Blasio’s first achievements was to negotiate a contract with the teacher union, who had been without a contract, and a raise, for five years. Universal Pre Kindergarten was funded in Albany, a major achievement.

de Blasio; however, has not been skillful in using his school achievements to burnish his own reputation.

The local tabloids, the Post and the Daily News, pro-Bloomberg, have challenged de Blasio’s school initiatives, and, de Blasio’s forays into state politics have backfired badly.

de Blasio decided to challenge the Republican majority in the Senate, who held a slim majority. With the support of the Working Families Party and the unions the mayor raised dollars (now under scrutiny by the US Attorney) and supported six upstate Democrats. When the smoke cleared the dems only won one race and alienated the Republican leadership in Albany.

Additionally there is only one perch on the top of the progressive pulpit, and, Governor Cuomo sits in that nest. Cuomo has, at every opportunity, slapped down perceived progressive challenges from de Blasio.

What does all this backroom politics have to do with mayoral control? Everything

Cathy Nolan, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee supports and extension of mayoral control, with caveats,

A group of parent representatives from our district came to Albany recently to share their concerns about education and the effects of mayoral control. I came away from this meeting with a clear sense that parents are frustrated and angered by the DOE’s inability to really listen to them.

The Mayor convinced everyone including myself that his system of parent advocates and small academies would initiate a new era in New York City’s Education. Parents would have a voice in how their children were educated. We voted to give the Mayor control but from where I sit good intentions are not enough.

In the Senate Republican leader John Flanagan, quixotically mused,

“Let me be clear: I don’t think anyone has said we should throw mayoral control out the window”  ….  “The governor said three years, the Assembly said seven years, and to an extent, we’re essentially agnostic”

The “message” to the mayor from Flanagan was clear – stay in the five boroughs; you’re the mayor of New York City not New York State.

The “message” from Cuomo was clear – there is only one progressive in New York State, and he’s in Albany.

You might say, “Isn’t this petty, why can’t they just run the state and do what is best for the people?”

A few dirty little secrets:

The 1787 Constitutional Convention was a secret meeting, no press, the only notes we have are from James Madison who restricted access until after the death of all the participants. The key compromise was the Three/Fifth Compromise – although slavery is not explicitly mentioned,

The issue of how to count slaves split the delegates into two groups. The northerners regarded slaves as property who should receive no representation. Southerners demanded that Blacks be counted with whites. The compromise clearly reflected the strength of the pro-slavery forces at the convention. The “Three-fifths Compromise” allowed a state to count three fifths of each Black person in determining political representation in the House.

A blatantly racist “deal” is at the core of our constitution – note the last three words.

Representatives and Direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their representative 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 and three fifths of all other Persons

Abraham Lincoln was determined to pass the Thirteen Amendment,

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Lincoln “… used high pressure arm-twisting, political patronage, and outright lies to accomplish his goal:” the passage of the amendment – it passed by two votes. Does the passage of the iconic amendment outlawing slavery justify the use of “political patronage (offering lucrative jobs for votes) and outright lies”?

James Madison, in Federalist Paper 51 wrote,

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition …  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.

Politics is a reflection of human nature, the rough and tumble of politics mirrors the real world. We are not angels, so the media, the other branches of government and the public are the controls. Politics is messy, 19th century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck quipped, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

Mayor de Blasio is ambitious, perhaps too ambitious, only time will tell. His ambition was countered by the ambition of the governor and the Republican leadership. Threatening to refuse to renew mayoral leadership, or add restrictions to the law, or only extending for one year is simply making him pay for his ambition. If the Democrats seize control of the Senate in the November elections the last laugh will come from Gracie Mansion.

The powers in Albany, who may see themselves as modern day feudal lords who require oaths of fealty from mayors and electeds have the power to punish. Those lowly lesser nobles have been known to rise up … heads have been lost.

Payback may be a bitch, but for whom?

Can Career and Technical High Schools (fka Vocational High Schools) Reduce the Achievement/Opportunity Gap and Better Prepare Students for the World Beyond High School?

For decades New York City was proud of comprehensive high schools, large high schools that offered a Regents college-bound diploma plus a vocational diploma for kids interested in the trades, a commercial diploma for girls, including an alternate week work-study program and a general or local diploma for kids who wanted to go directly to work. The economy absorbed kids into unskilled and semi-skilled jobs; many were union jobs that were a pathway to the middle class. In the eighties the world began to change, automation and jobs going overseas changed the nature of the job scene; jobs required a higher level of skills.

The Board of Regents took a highly controversial action – they ended the multiple diplomas – all students would have to earn a Regents diploma, passing five Regents examinations and pass the requisite courses. Kids in vocational schools would have to earn a Regents diploma plus 10-12 credits in their vocational field of study.

The single Regents diploma would be phased in over an extended period of time.

Most of the vocational high schools closed, kids were unable to pass Regents exams; tracking had sent low ability kids into the vocational schools. Beginning in the nineties and accelerating in the 2000’s all but a handful of the comprehensive high school also closed – branded as “drop-out factories.” The Board/Department began to create small theme-based high schools to replace the closed schools.

On March 30th the Manhattan Institute hosted a conference to herald the release of a report entitled, “The New CTE: New York City as Laboratory for America.” Since 2008 the NYC Department of Education has opened fifty small Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, formerly known as vocational high schools. The authors, Tamar Jacoby and Shawn Dougherty write,

Some fifty of the city’s roughly 400 high schools are dedicated exclusively to CTE. Nearly 75 others maintain 220 additional CTE programs – effectively schools within schools … early evidence suggests that the new CTE is producing results in New York. Occupational course offerings are largely aligned with the industries in the metro area … Class sizes tend to be smaller ,,, young people who attend CTE schools have better attendance rates and are more likely to graduate…. a larger share of schools with CTE classes score at, or above, “proficient” on English and math tests.

The report does not gloat- the report points to implementing tenets of the CTE movement.

* Prepare students for college and careers, allowing young people to keep their options open.

* Engage business and industry

* Build a bridge from secondary to post-secondary or training

* Create opportunities for students to work

* Embrace industry-recognized occupational credentials.

And, the report points to two substantial obstacles,

* More students need work experience:  in spite of the tens of thousands of students in CTE only about 1500 have been placed in internships, the connections between industry and school must have stronger bonds, and, both the schools and industries have to clarify the standards that define an internship.

* A new process for state approval of CTE teachers and industry credentials: The state approval model is a “gatekeeper” model based on traditional areas, there is “no box in the taxonomy for an emerging industry or occupation.” The process is overly lengthy and laborious.

In the question and answer section the abysmal community college graduation rates were referenced: only 19% in two years and 39% in six years plus mountains of debt. Is a Regents diploma a necessary requirement for an occupational credential?  Is the new community college model, ASAP at CUNY a step in the right direction?

The keynote speaker was former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who gave an unusual speech. In spite the significant drops in murder rates across the nation – from 20,000 murders a year to 14,000 murders a year nationally the murder rate in Chicago continues to increase – two murders a day. In a recent report 17 -24 year olds identified themselves as disconnected from work and the disconnected youth, according to Duncan, are more likely to pick up a gun.

Duncan proffered CTE programs must be aligned: to the community, to post-secondary institutions, to the business community and to middle schools. All programs must be accountable, and accountability means data, some iteration of multiple methods of measuring the effectiveness of schools and programs, if we expect the feds and/or states to support CTE programs we must have evidence to show the impact of the programs.

One of the questions asked: In the era of “disruptive innovation,” can we predict the industries five or ten years in the future?  Are we preparing students for transitory jobs?  Should CTE be preparing students to acquire skills rather than preparing for specific jobs?

A guest asked whether unions are an obstacle? Didn’t they see these programs as intruding on union turf? Kathryn Wilde, the President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City replied by praising the UFT and the Central Labor Council, the other members of the panel, a CTE principal and Department Executive Director of the Office of Multiple Pathways chimed in, the unions, especially the UFT were partners in developing the CTE programs across the city.

The world of education has certainly changed since Michael Bloomberg moved on.

Carl Heastie’s Board: The Speaker Will “Own” the Successes, or Lack thereof, of His Board of Regents

Presidents, governors and mayors all see themselves as taking on major public issues and solving the problems. For President Obama the issue was health care, the vehicle was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seven years later the ACA has been branded as “Obamacare” and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives have voted to repeal the law over fifty times.

In 2001 the new-elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg made the reorganization of the education bureaucracy in New York City his top priority. A school board appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor was converted into a mayoral agency – the mayor chose a majority of the central board (Panel for Education Priorities) and replaced elected local school boards with substantial power with virtually powerless Community Education Councils (CEC). For his first two terms Bloomberg made sweeping changes and two large bumps in pay under teacher contracts (2005 and 2007). By his third term Bloomberg was under assault, by the teachers union, parent advocates, and community organizations; his popularity ratings tanked. Sol Stern in City Journal wrote,

Sixty-four percent of respondents rated school performance as either fair or poor, with only 27 percent proclaiming it excellent or good; 69 percent said that students in the city’s schools weren’t ready for the twenty-first-century economy. New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

The decision to brand himself as an education mayor was a disaster.

Bloomberg’s successor has dismantled many of his signature programs.

In 2014 Governor Cuomo seized the education governor crown. In the arcane budget process (items having nothing to do with the budget are appended to the budget) Cuomo, who favored teacher evaluation by student test scores associated with high stakes testing  also added pro-charter school laws, forcing New York City to either provide space for charter schools in public school buildings or pay the rent for private space.

200,000 kids opted out of State tests, the opt out movement grew across the state, the state teachers union (NYSUT) bombarded the governor with critical TV and radio ads .  The governor’s popularity ratings headed south, especially over education.

The survey also found that 64 percent of New Yorkers feel that Common Core standards have either worsened education in the state or done nothing to improve it.

In September of this year the governor appointed a task force, in December the task force report including twenty recommendations that backed away from the most controversial of the governor’s initiatives – teacher evaluation: a four year moratorium.

As the governor backs away from education the new “power behind the education throne” is Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly.

Last year Heastie chose not to appoint the two most senior members of the Board and this year made it clear he’d was looking for new leadership.

Heastie has appointed nine of the 17-member Board of Regents – the Heastie appointees supported Betty Rosa and Andrew Brown as the new Chancellor and Vice Chancellor.

Rosa’s election was mauled by the New York Post and the New York Daily News as well as the Buffalo News,

It doesn’t augur well for excellence when the new chancellor of the state Board of Regents all but encourages parents to opt out of state assessments. It doesn’t even augur well for orderliness.

Next week the State testing begins and whether we like it or not, unless the Board can change the conversation, the metrics by which the Board of Regents, will be “judged” are opt outs, test scores and graduations rates.

The Heastie Board has several hundred years of experience working in the education trenches, working with the unions, with parents, with school boards, with local elected officials; they have the skills to bring together the stakeholders across the state.

Chancellor Rosa and Vice Chancellor Brown, along with both the new and the current Board have the experience to move away from the Cuomo agenda and create a new path. Move the dialogue away from test results and numbers of opt out to reducing the opportunity gap (a better term than achievement gap) for the “left behind:” ELLs, students with disabilities, the poorest and students of color.

Their success will be Heastie’s success, or, Heastie will own their lack of success.

The Eva Moskowitz Saga: Will the Public Tolerate Zero Tolerance? Will Eva Move to the National Scene?

Eva Moskowitz was a member of the New York City Council from the Upper East Side of Manhattan – probably the highest income electoral district in the nation. New York has a “strong mayor” system of local governance – the fifty-one members of the council elect a speaker, who, along with the mayor, runs the city. The council members, overwhelmingly Democratic, rarely have contested votes, the speaker controls the membership. Each council member gets a few millions to distribute to district projects and use the office as a bully pulpit to advocate for their next job on the elective ladder.

Eva was appointed as chair of the Education Committee, and, surprisingly and unfathomably, used her position to attack the UFT contract. The union negotiates with both the mayor and the chancellor; the City Council has no role in negotiations. Committee meeting after committee meeting she criticized some element of the collective bargaining agreement. At the end of her term, she was term limited and ran for the open position of Borough President of Manhattan. In a nine-way race Moskowitz was defeated by Scott Stringer, an Upper West Side member of the New York State Assembly; needless to say the union was heavily involved and supported Stringer (I was at the victory party for Stringer!!)

Eva, defeated at the polls, jumped from the City Council to the world of charter schools with the total support of Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein; deep pocketed supporters began to rapidly build the Success Academy network of charter schools.

Eva’s access to Klein was unparalleled, a NY Daily News FOIL request, vigorously fought by the city, unearthed an amazing exchange (Read NY Daily News article here  and a detailed analysis of the hundreds of emails here) of e-correspondence.

Klein and Eva were soul mates, anything she wanted in a school she received, they discussed politics on the local and national level, and the emails had the feel of two lovers or a doting father figure.

With the exit of Bloomberg and Klein the city was led by a mayor far less amenable to charter schools and Eva immediately went on the attack. Governor Cuomo, her newest “best friend” passed legislation forcing New York City to either provide space in a public school or pay the rent for leased space. The rumors began to spread – was Eva the candidate to run against de Blasio in 2017?  Ambition was not lacking and on the steps of City Hall Eva denied she was running for mayor – three years before the election, (Read previous blog post here) with plenty of time to change her mind.

In the world of politics rises and falls can be unanticipated and precipitous. While accusations that the Success Academy Network forced out low performing students the charges never gained traction. In the fall the press unearthed a principal of a Success Academy school who maintained a “Got-To Go” list – low performing students who were targeted for moving out. The Success Schools are tightly run, the instruction is carefully scripted, and you see the same leadership style and instructional strategies in schools across the network; the criticism that excellent tests results were more “addition by subtraction,” forcing out low performers, began to gain traction.

In January a group of parents filed a federal complaint accusing the Success Network of discriminating against children with disabilities, a charge vigorously denied by Moskowitz.

On February 12th the NY Times published a highly unusual article; it included a video clip entitled, “A Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?”

In the video, a first-grade class sits cross-legged in a circle on a brightly colored rug. One of the girls has been asked to explain to the class how she solved a math problem, but she has gotten confused.

 She begins to count: “One… two…” Then she pauses and looks at the teacher.

The teacher takes the girl’s paper and rips it in half. “Go to the calm-down chair and sit,” she orders the girl, her voice rising sharply.

“There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” she says, as the girl retreats.

The teacher was not an inexperienced novice; the teacher was a “model teacher” who demonstrated effective practice to other teachers.

The video exposed the instructional philosophy of the network – what is referred to as zero tolerance – defined as a negative reinforcement to extinguish undesirable behaviors.

Kathleen De Cataldo, Executive Director of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children sees zero tolerance policies as a first step in the “school to prison” pipeline,

School policies and disciplinary practices that discourage students from remaining in the classroom often lead to schools, directly or indirectly, “pushing” students out of schools. “Pushout” policies and practices include zero tolerance and ineffective misbehavior prevention and intervention policies, as well as leads to student disengagement from school.

Elizabeth Green, the editor of Chalkbeat and the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works” takes a much more nuanced approach to “no excuses;” Green summarizes attitudes,

On one side of that debate: educators and parents who argue that the no-excuses approach is not only defensible, but the only way to solve racial and class inequities in schools and beyond … the strong academic results of “no excuses” schools prove that the model only needs evolving, not fundamental change.

On the other side: An equally passionate group arguing that no-excuses practices are systematically abusive and a form of institutional racism, undermining any academic gains they may enable. These critics are not just speculators. They include people who have taught and still do teach at no-excuses schools.

And goes on to parse both sides in detail. The lengthy article details the charter school chains that espouse and defend a no excuses approach and counters the critics.

Green concludes.

Ultimately, I think that critics inside no-excuses schools are right that the no-excuses approach to teaching needs radical overhaul. The behavior first, learning second formula prescribed by broken-windows theory — and for that matter, by most American schools — can successfully build compliant, attentive students, at least in the short term. But it cannot produce students who think creatively, reason independently, and analyze critically.

Whether you refer to the schools as zero tolerance or “broken windows” or “behavior first” you don’t find such schools in middle class white environs. The issue of race hovers over the debate – is there something about students of color that requires a harsher approach, and, the crucial question, does the philosophy or policy prepare students for college and beyond or a method to identify a “talented tenth,” discard the majority for the benefit of a minority that can survive the outwardly abusive instructional/disciplinary practices?

The defenders of Moskowitz are hard to find, and, avid supporters may be beginning to have doubts. When Moskowitz refused to sign a standard contract with the city that allows the city to inspect pre-k programs for health and safety issues no one came to her defense and the state commissioner found no problem with the practice. Members of the Board of Regents openly asked whether the commissioner had the power to intervene and there is little question that legislation viewed as increasing transparency and fairness will be introduced – see bills already introduced here, here and here.

In December the Cuomo Task Force report tamped down the rhetoric and clearly the Governor is looking to repair frayed relations with public school parents and teacher unions. Whether the deep-pocketed funders continue to pour millions into Success is now open to question.

And for Eva…. maybe a high profile role in the Trump or Cruz presidential campaigns.

de Blasio’s School Renewal Plan: Warmed Over Ineffective Turnaround Plans or Well Thought Out Plans Phased-In With Faculty Involvement?

Almost a year to the day after his election Mayor de Blasio, in a major address, rolled out his long awaited education plan. As the spring morphed into summer and the summer into the fall the whispers got louder – What’s happening? What’s the plan for “struggling” schools? If he’s not going to close schools, how is he going to help schools? In a lengthy address the mayor mused about his experiences as a student and a parent and described his plans.

The plan below:

Aggressive Supports and Reforms for 94 Low-Performing Schools

Each school-specific School Renewal Plan will outline the school’s approach to transforming into a Community School and offering extended time, as well as feature the following supports and reforms:
• Additional resources, such as academic intervention specialists, guidance counselors, social workers, small group instruction and individualized plans to meet the academic and emotional needs of every student
• Extensive professional learning and development for school staff, including intensive coaching for principals
• Enhanced oversight from superintendents who all recently completed a rigorous interview process
• Frequent visits from DOE trained staff to provide feedback and closely monitor progress

Additional targeted supports tailored to each school, based on its individual needs, may include:
• Modified curriculum to maximize school improvement
• New master and model teachers who can share their craft with other educators at the school
• Operational support, enabling principals to focus on supporting their teachers to ensure rigorous classroom instruction
• Additional resources for school safety and social service programs designed to address the specific identified needs of the student population

The goals for the coming years are:
• 2014–2015
o Each school must develop and put in place a School Renewal Plan for transformation by Spring 2015
• 2015–2016
o Each school must meet concrete milestones defined in its School Renewal Plan and improve on targeted elements of the capacity framework, as identified in the needs assessment
o Each school must demonstrate measurable improvement in attendance and teacher retention
• 2016–2017
o Each school must demonstrate significant improvement in academic achievement
o Each school must demonstrate continued improvement on targeted elements of the capacity framework

For some the plan looks like warmed-over State Incentive Grants (SIG) that the feds have been distributing for years. The grants fit into parameters set by the state and the details of the grant are created by the school district; principals have peripheral input and staff no input. Programs imposed from central rarely change classroom practice.

Principles of Organizational Change:
• Participation reduces resistance
• Change is perceived as punishment

Some of the schools on the list have been flirting with school closures for decades, superintendents, regional superintendents, network leaders, etc., have been “supporting” schools year after year, how will the de Blasio Renewal Plan differ from years of “new initiatives?”

If instructional practice from 9 – 3, during the regular school day has not been effective what makes you think instruction from 3 – 4 will be effective?

Andy Smarick in Education Next,
in a critical essay about school turnaround writes,

… school turnaround efforts have consistently fallen far short of hopes and expectations. Quite simply, turnarounds are not a scalable strategy for fixing America’s troubled urban school systems…

Looking back on the history of school turnaround efforts, the first and most important lesson is the “Law of Incessant Inertia.” Once persistently low performing, the majority of schools will remain low performing despite being acted upon in innumerable ways.

The second important lesson is the “Law of Ongoing Ignorance.” Despite years of experience and great expenditures of time, money, and energy, we still lack basic information about which tactics will make a struggling school excellent. A review published in January 2003 by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation of more than 100 books, articles, and briefs on turnaround efforts concluded, “There is, at present, no strong evidence that any particular intervention type works most of the time or in most places.”

Is the School Renewal Plan spending $150 million and pushing the problem three years down the road? On the other hand school closings sacrificed students in the phase-out schools, two or three years of staff moving on and deteriorating services. Over 1,000 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool rotating from school to school at a cost of tens of millions. The Renewal Plan will involve staffs in the creation of school specific plans and the master teachers and coaches and mentors will work with school staffs. Schools will have “ownership” of the process, yes; schools plans must operate within the parameters of the Renewal Plan (extended school days, etc.). Schools will have three years to recreate their own schools in a transparent process. If schools fail to show adequate progress, in a transparent process, schools will be closed or staff changed. it is difficult to object to school closing at the end of a process in which school staffs participated in the process.

School closings vigorously resisted by schools, communities and elected or schools that improve, or not, with the total involvement of the schools and the community.

There are three keys: leadership, leadership and leadership.

The Bloomberg era leadership programs have had mixed results. An NYU study a few years ago showed no significant differences among Leadership Academy and traditional program principals. Anecdotally teachers report young Leadership graduates do not exhibit leadership qualities. To claim, as some reformers claim that experience does not matter is deeply flawed. Learning is lifelong, experience matters.

Schools blocks apart: one school chaotic, fights, suspensions, and mediocre instruction, the other orderly, effective instruction, the “feeling” that kids and teachers want to succeed, and sometimes, the same stark differences in schools in the same building.

Can current principals in struggling schools become effective school leaders?

Can school staffs become reflective, collaborative teams?

We anxiously await the implementation details of the Renewal Plan.

I used to wonder why so many secondary school principals had been coaches, and so few English and History teachers.

Have you ever watched a coach work with his/her team during a practice? Have you watched a coach teach a skill?

Description, demonstration, walk through, correction, slow practice, correction, repetition, game speed practice, review, correction … a step by step teaching of a skill with frequent “checks for understanding.” Mike Schmoker, in Focus, describes the same practice in classroom instruction: frequent checks for understanding.

I watched a U-tube of a high school basketball coach, a gymnasium filled with kids, there was less than a second left, an out-of-bounds play, the coach signaled a play, the player under the basket nodded, flashed the signal – the out-of-bounds pass was a lob to the rim and one player came around a screen and tipped the pass at the buzzer for a win. In in a tense situation players performed, coaching worked, kids learned and performed.

Coaches, principals and teachers can teach kids and can instill confidence in students. The de Blasio School Renewal Plan can make a difference with the proper leadership at the school level.