Tag Archives: Bob Hughes

What Type of Chancellor Do We Need in New York City: An “Innovator” or a “Collaborator”?

On Thursday I helped facilitate an event, “How does the New ESSA Law Impact my School?” – about fifty principals and teacher union (UFT) staff listening to and interacting with two experts, one from the Department of Education and the other from the UFT: labor and management, principals and teachers, working together to comprehend a complex new law changing school assessment. I think I might even understand the difference between proficiency, growth, progress, measurements and goals.

Ironically the same day the NY Daily News published an op ed by former Bloomberg Department of Education staffer Andrew Kirtzman (“Needed: An Education Innovator to Follow Carmen Farina”) The innovators Kirtzman praises described themselves as “disrupters,” breaking apart a school system and building another based on their ideas. Kirtzman’s innovators/disrupters created turmoil. Over 2000 teachers in the ATR pool, Open Market transfers, aka, teacher free agency, Fair Student Funding, change after change, a chaotic era antagonized the work force. Teachers despised the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott, “innovations” that were actually an attempt to end tenure, weaken and/or destroy the union, an attempt that rallied teachers and created a vibrant opposition. Farina’s first job was to clean out the Augean Stables.

Obama/Duncan/King pumped out hundreds of millions of dollars: the Common Core, evaluating teachers by student test scores, in New York State four tests for prospective teachers, extending teacher probation, and, choice aka, charter schools. Once again, alienating the work force; teachers in classrooms across the nation and the state.

The most successful corporations, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Zappos, all build teams of employees, teams with wide latitude to create and collaborate.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs is Tony Hsieh, the president and CEO of Zappos, an online shoe and apparel site.  In a new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Hsieh argues that workplace culture is the key to highly effective employees that create a highly effective business enterprise. Spend a few minutes listening to Hsieh here.

 Workplace culture in New York City has dramatically changed, from the toxic culture of the previous administration to an increasingly collaborative culture. The 2014 teacher contract created PROSE schools,

Of all the breakthrough ideas in the 2014 contract, none has more potential to empower teachers and their school communities than the PROSE initiative. PROSE stands for Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence, and the opportunities for redesign at the heart of this program are predicated on the UFT’s core belief that the solutions for schools are to be found within school communities, in the expertise of those who practice our profession.

See the PROSE application and rubric for 2018 »

Over 100 schools are currently in the program, bending management/union rules, redesigns, school communities finding better ways to deliver services to students.

The change in culture also comes from Albany, Commissioner Elia and Regent Chancellor Rosa involved the education community across the state in major policy decisions. The creation of the state ESSA plan included scores of meetings, hundreds of educators from all levels participating, thousands of comments, months and months of discussions created a plan that moves from how many kids reach a proficient grade (3.0) on a state test to a system that combines proficiency, growth and progress. The topic I referenced above, the work groups included all the educational stakeholders.

The former administration imposed a teacher evaluation system based on Value-Added Measurements, student test scores, to assess teacher quality. After a long, arduous battle Governor Cuomo agreed to toll the system for four years, teachers are currently assessed by a system called “the matrix,” a combination of teacher observations and locally-agreed upon measurements of student learning (MOSL) and student learning objectives (SLO).

With the moratorium in its third year the commissioner has asked for feedback from staff across the state.

See the APPR survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/commissionersAPPRsurvey

BTW, fill it out and submit- join thousands of teachers across the state.

We’ve had enough of “innovative” leadership, leadership firmly convinced they possess the Holy Grail, leadership imposed so-called innovations, and moved on to their next job.

The Gates Foundation has a new director of K-12 education, Bob Hughes, the former leader of New Visions for Public Schools, an organization that created and works with small public high schools. (He was also one of the attorneys on the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity law suit team). I know, I know, we’ll all suspicious of the word Gates. I worked with Bob for a few years, I respect him. The Foundation is requesting proposals for networks of schools.

The networks we invest in will use a continuous improvement process to improve student outcomes by tackling problems that are common across the network. At the foundation, we believe connecting schools that are facing similar challenges will increase the likelihood of school leaders identifying the approach that is most likely to be effective in their school. We also believe that principals and teachers, through focused planning, collaboration, and data-sharing within networks, can raise achievement and increase the academic success of Black, Latino, and low-income students

I arrived early for a meeting with a principal and asked whether it was possible to push up the meeting, the school secretary, “No, he’s teaching.” I was surprised, “He’s covering a class of an absent teacher?” The secretary: “No, he teaches first period.” I was intrigued.

When we met I asked the principal why he was teaching a first period class.

“I take three classes into the gym; we do exercises, maybe some yoga, a few basketball skills. it allows me to get the temperature of the kids, it allows three teachers to meet and co-plan for the day.”

I asked if I could speak with one of the teachers, the principal, “Of course.”

The teacher: “We love it, we can concentrate on particular kids, particular skills, I’m really enjoying this year and I feel we’re making a difference.”

There are school leaders and teachers across the city collaborating to improve their schools, unfortunately the “ideas” are rarely shared, after all, what do teachers know (sadly too often the higher-ups attitude).

The Gates Networks, the UFT-Department of Education PROSE schools, the Performance-Based Assessment Consortium, all move schools and kids forward, all make teaching more rewarding.

We need a collaborative leader, a chancellor who can build on the trust that Farina created. We need a chancellor who understands the answers are in the schools and classrooms. Distributive leadership throughout the ranks strengthens ties, gives every voice a place within strong school cultures.

Gates, Again: The Gates Foundation Commits $1.7 Billion to the Creation of “Networks of Schools,” Creating a “Bottom Up” Model, or, Swimming Against the Tide?

Our nation has a long history of philanthropy, the wealthy supporting “worthy causes;” the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins, the Langone Medical Center at New York University, buildings at colleges named after a deep-pocketed contributor, and, recently, vast dollars to promote a specific cause. The Walton Family Foundation’s cause is charter schools, “The foundation has invested more than $407 million to grow high-quality charter schools since 1997.”

Daniel Loeb, a billionaire hedge fund manager chairs the Eva Moskowitz Success Academy board, and, according to Chalkbeat, “donated millions of dollars to the network.”

Bill Gates, at a speech at the Council of Great City Schools (10/19/17) announced a new major project, described below, revolves around the creation of school networks and the use of data.

“… we will expand investments in innovative research to accelerate progress for underserved students.

Overall, we expect to invest close to $1.7 billion in U.S. public education over the next five years.”

This is the third major investment in education by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His first, the small high school initiative, Gates dollars, $600 million, helped in the creation of 1200 schools around the nation, with mixed results, as reported by Gates.

From our work creating small schools to increase high school graduation and college-readiness rates, we saw how small schools could be responsive to their students’ needs. While the results in places like New York City, Los Angeles, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas were encouraging, we realized that districts were reluctant to scale small schools because of the financial and political costs of closing existing schools and starting new ones.

 In New York City the Gates dollars were funneled through New Visions for Public Schools to community-based organizations that supported the school theme. I worked at New Visions for a few years on a team that worked to support schools; meaning providing expertise in a range of areas. Highly dedicated people working in schools run by a number of different superintendents with differing goals and leadership styles.

The small schools movement predated the Gates initiative; the Chancellor’s High School District phased out large dysfunctional schools and created small theme-based schools. While the management model was structurally different, the small schools created by the Chancellor’s District were at least as effective as the Gates schools. One might ask whether the 600 million could have been put to better use.

Gates then moved on to the next big thing, the Measures of Effective Teaching project, a massive undertaking.

Our investments in the Measures of Effective Teaching provided important knowledge about how to observe teachers at their craft, rate their performance fairly, and give them actionable feedback. While these insights have been helpful to the field, we saw that differentiating teachers by performance, and in turn by pay scale, wasn’t enough to solve the problem alone.

 A three year-long study involving 3,000 teachers across the nation “provided important knowledge,” however, “wasn’t enough to solve the problem alone.”

The study placed 360 degree cameras in classrooms, video recording lessons, coding the teacher behavior, and attempting to isolate specific teaching behaviors. Unfortunately the study also used pupil performance on tests, value-added measurement (VAM), as the tool to assess teacher performance. Whether intended or not, the use of VAM by Gates added to the movement to assess teacher performance and pay teachers according to increases in test scores.

Two massive project intending to change the face of education that ultimately failed to achieve their goals.

The Foundation is embarking on a new massive project. “Networks of schools.”

In his speech Gates only spoke in general terms,

We anticipate that about 60 percent of this [the 1.7 billion] will eventually support the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions . . . and use data to drive continuous improvement.

Many states, districts, and schools now have the data they need to track student progress and achievement, and some are using it to great effect.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering, what are these “networks of schools” and where are they? You’re not alone.

Gates continued,

We will focus our grantmaking on supporting schools in their work to improve student outcomes—particularly for low-income, Black, and Latino students—by partnering with middle and high schools and identifying new approaches that are effective and that could be replicated in other schools.

We will do this by investing in networks of schools to solve common problems schools face by using evidence-based interventions that best fit their needs, and data-driven continuous learning. We will also invest in ensuring that teachers and leaders have what they need to be successful—high-quality preparation, standards-aligned curriculum and tools, accompanied by professional learning opportunities. And we’ll keep our eyes on the horizon; advancing research and development in support of new innovations that will help our education system keep pace with our rapidly changing world.

The Foundation has published a “Request for Information,” a document requesting information from current or former self-designed networks,

We believe when teams of educators within schools and across schools work collaboratively with communities and have a strong partnership with families to solve common problems and continuously improve, change will be more enduring.

Take a look at the Request for Information document here.

The leader of K-12 Education and the new initiative at Gates is Bob Hughes, who led New Visions for Public Schools in New York City.

I first met Bob at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) trial. Bob was one of the attorneys leading the heroic effort for fair funding in New York City. I attended about 30 sessions of the 107 session trial reporting the activities of the day to the UFT legal team. A few years later Bob moved to New Visions, and with a $54 million grant managed the creation of small school communities, schools working closely with community partners.  In 2003 I began to work on a team that assisted in the design of new schools and the phase-out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

Bob and the New Visions staff are dedicated to improving schools, and, in spite of the obstacle of working within a school system that at times was obstructionist, created a network of schools.

In February, 2016 Bob moved from New Visions to the head of K-12 Education at Gates.

From the limited information on the Gates website it appears that the “next big thing” will be an attempt to marry the New Visions model with networks across the nation.

As an example of the model New Visions has created an Open Educational Resources (OER) project; curricula, designed by subject area specialists and classroom teachers. New Visions encourages,

A broad group of teachers participate in ongoing professional development which provides them with support for the use of these materials. [Explore the curricula on the site above – open and free to all]

New Visions has taken over the role of the school district.

New Visions has also created a host of data tools,

Empowering teacher and school administrators through flexible open source tools and resources, the New Visions CloudLab is a home for community driven tool development and support.

I am a supporter of the network approach, the current rigid, top-down, paramilitary structure (salute and comply) has never worked, kids did well not because of the management system, they did well because of the nature of the school population or the extraordinary ability of school or school district leadership.

Schools and school districts should be learning communities, not “absorbers” of the message of the moment.

The New Visions model, the Internationals Network, and a few others are currently embedded within New York City, and, there will be opportunities for other networks.

One interesting possibility, the creation of a PROSE network, a cluster of schools taking advantage of new section of the bargaining agreement that encourages schools to create innovative designs.

PROSE stands for Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence, and the opportunities for redesign at the heart of this program are predicated on the UFT’s core belief that the solutions for schools are to be found within school communities, in the expertise of those who practice our profession.

Hopefully the Bill and Bob team can create interesting options to our current test prep driven school districts.