Tag Archives: Buffalo

Why is the Board of Regents Leadership “Bleeding” Public Schools by Allowing Charter Expansion?

Charter Schools were created in the late 1980s as “engines of innovation,” schools in which innovative and unique teaching techniques can be modeled; Albert Shanker, the President of the American Federation of Teachers was a supporter.

As charter laws blossomed across the nation Shanker withdrew his support; instead of “engines of innovation” charter schools were marketed as schools competing with public schools: let the schools with the highest achievement survive. Nobel Prize economist and “free market” advocate Milton Freedman became the philosophical foundation of charter schools.

Today many charter schools have moved in a somewhat different direction; seeking to educate the highest achievers in poor communities. WEB DuBois, a sociologist and founding member of the NAACP advocated the education of the “Talented Tenth,”

“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”

Public schools educate whoever walks through their doors, regardless of economic status, disability and language barriers.

 The charter school law requires a lottery to gain admittance and charter schools advertise widely to enlarge the pool and attract “upwardly socially mobile” parents, in other words, the “talented tenth.”

 The New York State Charter School law prohibits gifted charter schools and requires charter schools to enroll students with disabilities, English language learners and Title 1 eligible students.

 a  charter school designed to provide expanded learning opportunities for students at-risk of  academic  failure or students with disabilities and English language learners; and provided, further,  that  the  charter   school shall demonstrate  good  faith  efforts  to attract and retain a comparable or greater enrollment of  students  with  disabilities,  English  language learners,  and  students  who  are  eligible applicants for the free and reduced price lunch program when compared to the enrollment figures for such  students  in  the  school  district in which the charter school is located.

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The State Education Department (not the law) has established Charter School Frameworks (Read Frameworks here)

Benchmark 1: Proficiency at the elementary/middle school level shall be defined as achieving a performance level of 3 or higher on Grade 3-8 state assessments in ELA, math,

Benchmark 9: The school is meeting or making annual progress toward meeting the enrollment plan outlined in its charter and its enrollment and retention targets for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who are eligible applicants for the free and reduced priced lunch program; or has demonstrated that it has made extensive good faith efforts to attract, recruit, and retain such students.

At the June 8th Regent Meeting, a six-hour remote meeting half the meeting was debate over the renewal and expansion of grades in charter schools.

A Buffalo charter school requested a re-vote on a grade extension that had been denied at the May meeting, after a clarification the Board was agreeable to grant the extension; however, the school had failed to meet “comparable” percentage of SWD and Ell students over four years, and, was required to file an Corrective Action Plan,

February 2019, the school was required by NYSED to provide a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to increase enrollment of students with disabilities (SWDs) and English language learners (ELLs)/Multilingual learners (MLLs) to meet the proportions enrolled in the district of location. In the spring of 2020, the school was required to address these same enrollment issues. The school is currently implementing the specific strategies outlined in the CAP and provides quarterly progress reports and updates to the NYSED Charter School Office (CSO). The CAP will be closely monitored, and the Department will report to the Regents, as necessary.

 Regent Collins, representing the Buffalo region moved to renew the charter for three years, instead of the five allowed by statute. If the school met the conditions in the Corrective Action Plan the charter could be extended to the full five years: apparently a non-controversial and reasonable request.

Chancellor Rosa, Vice –Chancellor Brown and others spoke into opposition to Dr. Collin’s motion!! It was defeated 10-7.

Why would the leaders of the Board turn down a request that will have no negative impact to the school, except, if the school fails to comply with the Corrective Action Plan?

Is Dr. Collins too outspoken at Regents Meetings? Is she being punished? Are charter schools in Buffalo being favored over public schools?

There are currently 19 charter schools in Buffalo with more in the pipeline – 9,000 students and charter funding comes out of the Buffalo School budget.

(9,000 x $12,000 per student = $108,000,000), not a paltry sum, especially in a district that even before the pandemic was fiscally challenged.

Later in the meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade  expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids?  In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application?  Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist  who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency.  She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions

The action of Regent Brown, who was chairing the committee and the lawyer, simply has a noxious aroma.

I’m disappointed in the actions of the “majority.” Regents Collins and Cashin are passionate supporters of public schools, both have long distinguished careers, in my view they were treated shabbily.

In fact, the New York City Affinity District  allows for the same level of flexibility as charter schools, and, schools within the Affinity cluster are far more “innovative” than any charter.

Charter Schools have become an anachronism.

We should “fold” charter schools into autonomous clusters within school districts, that would require a change in the law.

Read more about the Affinity District here.

Racial Isolation in Public Schools: While School Integration is a Worthy Goal Improving All Schools Must Be Our Primary Goal

In an editorial (“Racial Isolation in Public Schools) the NY Times writes,

New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation, and the state needs remedies right away … Minority children are disproportionately trapped in schools that lack the teaching talent, course offerings and resources needed to prepare them for college and success in the new economy.

The editorial board makes an incredibly bad assumption: that by moving minority children into primarily white, middle class schools the ills of generations of segregation and racism will be wiped away.

Kudos to Merryl Tisch and the members of the Board of Regents for not jumping onboard the simple solution bandwagon.

High poverty schools are plagued with problems beyond the classroom; at the December, 2014 Regents meeting the issue of “chronic absenteeism” was highlighted. The Center for New York City Affairs, in a recent report, “A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal About NYC’s Lowest-Income Elementary Schools,” spotlighted the insidious impact of children not attending school as part of a wider pattern,

Tisch and her colleagues have spent months crafting new English language learner regulations to both remove obstacles to better instructional strategies as well providing clearer guidance to school districts

The Times’ “solution,” is an example of deja vu, again,

… the state cannot just throw up its hands. It has a moral obligation to ensure that as many children as possible escape failing schools for ones that give them a fighting chance. And history has shown that districts can dramatically improve educational opportunities for minority children — and reduce racial isolation — with voluntary transfer plans and especially with high-quality magnet schools that attract middle-class families.

Running away from the problems of high poverty neighborhoods, running away from what the Center for NYC Affairs called “risk load,” running away from in increasing numbers of English language learners is foolhardy.

To blame inner city schools for the “problem” is just plain wrong, The Times claims that the “lack of teaching talent, course offerings and resources” can be cured by moving kids to whiter, middle class schools. If the inner city and suburban school swapped teachers student achievement would be unchanged. When kids enter kindergarten well behind middle class kids in all academic skills teaching and learning becomes “catchup” from day 1. The requirement of passing five Regents exams results in double periods of English and Mathematics, remedial and tutorial classes, the lack of course offerings is determined by the skill level of the students.

Fifty years ago New York City embarked upon an effort to integrate schools. James Madison High School, a high-achieving large high school in a lovely neighborhood of private homes was “integrated;” within a few years the school moved from all-white to 70% White and 30% Black. The new principal, Henry Hillson, was a shining light among high school principals, the UFT Chapter Leader, Chet Fulmer, sent his kids to a school in Bedford-Stuyvesant as part of a reverse busing program, and, although white, served as an elder in Milton Galamaison’s Siloam Church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The young Madison staff members enthusiastically supported the “experiment” in school integration. The end of January staff development days focused on the “new” student body and “new” methods of instruction and integrating students within the building. The “old timers” were unenthusiastic about school integration, the school was “ruined,” the new young teachers, and I was one of them, were totally engaged in creating a new school, a new racially integrated school, a model for a new school system.

A decade later Madison was torn apart by student racial clashes,

SCHOOL IS CLOSED BY RACIAL CLASH
Outbreak at Madison High in Flatbush Involves 300 New Fights Threatened

White students at James Madison High School in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, armed with sticks, window poles, pipes, canes and chairs, attacked a group of black students there yesterday morning in a new outbreak of continuing racial tension at the school.

The riot was deeply disturbing, if racial integration stumbled at Madison, could it be expected to succeed anywhere? Madison had a socially liberal, welcoming staff; the school was located in a liberal community, what went wrong?

The NYC Human Rights Commission conducted an in depth study, spending weeks in the school interviewing scores of students, teachers, parents and community members. The report was prescient, forty years later we have failed to resolve the issues highlighted in the report. (A sobering read forty years later)

The 1974 report begins, “Even when integration has succeeded in becoming a major goal of education and urban planners, the means to attain this goal have seemed increasingly elusive” and goes on to admit, “In too many instances across the nation we have seen schools become integrated only to become resegregated … we know how to integrate …what we do not know is how to make integration work on a permanent basis.”

The commissioners praise the Madison staff, although they note the hostility of the old-timers.

The problem of integration, the Commission avers, goes well beyond the school,

“The relationship schools and neighborhoods is a close and reciprocal one but plans for integration almost never foresee the differences or strive to make the relationship between the newly integrated school and its neighborhood a healthy one.”

Perceptively, the report writes, “The Commission believes that the operative factor here is class, rather than race.” The better educated, liberal elements in the community supported the integration of the school, the more blue-collar, less educated elements in the community led the growing opposition, and, many of their children were involved in the physical confrontations.

While the school was technically integrated, classes in the school were largely segregated; classes were homogeneously organized, as were extra-curricular activities.

The report suggests 13 recommendations and admits “…little has been done anywhere in the country to develop practical strategies to cope with the daily challenges of integration to make integration work.”

In September, 1975 the city tottered on the brink of bankruptcy, 15,000 teachers were laid off and the city administration abandoned support for school integration.

Buffalo, as the Times editorial states, was deeply engaged in school integration,

As The Times reported in 1985, the city was viewed as a national model for racial integration; educators who wished to learn the lessons of Buffalo’s success flocked to the city from around the globe. Things went downhill in the 1990s, however, when court supervision ended and Buffalo experienced severe fiscal problems.

“Severe fiscal problems” escalated over the last twenty years, industry and population have fled, and white flight has turned Buffalo into an empty shell, a city without resources, a city surrounded by affluent suburbs, a city with a rapidly increasing school population of English language learners.

Just as the fiscal crisis of 1975 ended efforts to promote racial integration in New York City the collapse of the Buffalo economy turned Buffalo into a racially segregated, economically distressed city.

Inner city schools in St Louis, in Rochester, in Chicago, in city after city across the nation face the same issues. Working class union jobs are gone, jobs have scurried to Asia, and automation continues to shrink the work force. Charter schools have drained students with social capital out of neighborhood public schools, and, a closer look at charter schools is not encouraging; when you adjust for the absence of special education and English language learners in charter schools, when you adjust for the expulsion of “discipline problems;” charter schools are no better and in many instances lower achievers than public schools.

There are outliers, schools in poor neighborhoods that outperform neighboring schools; the answer is always school leadership and school staffs, not measured by a score on a principal-teacher evaluation, “measured” by the non-cognitive skills. School staffs that exhibit grit, persistence and humility, the same qualities that we find in successful students.

Black kids ask, “Why can’t we learn in schools with other black kids? Do we need white kids to learn?” The 1974 Commission report emphasizes the influence of class as well as the impact of race. Black families that move up the economic ladder are as likely to seek out better housing in lower crime neighborhoods as white families.

I was visiting classroom in an all-Black public high school in Harlem, a European History Advanced Placement class. The lesson was about the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the lesson was at the level of a lesson at the most prestigious schools in the city.

The race of the students in a school does not determine the level of instruction or the course offerings, the academic level of the students determines the direction of instruction.

While NYS law does not allow for the state taking over a school district, in the instance that a law was passed that allowed the state to take over the Roosevelt School District the results were not encouraging.

“Solutions” must include the community, the electeds, the union, the business and faith-based communities; all what we euphemistically call “the stakeholders.”

Unfortunately Governor Cuomo, rather than leading efforts to engage the Buffalo community has chosen a confrontational path, a path that will only drive the stakeholders further apart.

In the poorest county in the nation, McDowell County in West Virginia, the American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia governor, the business community and fifty other organizations are organizing and working together.

All fights end, and it is essential that the current toxic climate between the governor and the educational community end, perhaps Chancellor Tisch and the Regents can take the lead.

A Reply to the Cuomo Letter: Should the Governor Be Responsible for All Education Policies? Should the Commissioner and the Board of Regents Be Appointed by the Governor?

Jim Malatras
Director of State Operations
Executive Chamber
Albany, New York

Dear Jim:

Let me thank you for your letter of December 18th to Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King, you highlight educational policy issues confronting education in the state, some constructive and others destructive.

You write,

“…we lag behind in graduation rates, only 34.4% of students are proficient in math, 31.4% proficient in ELA and only 37.5 of our students college ready.”

The current scores reflect the flawed introduction of the common core, two years ago; on the previous tests, two-thirds of our students were proficient. Our high school graduation requirements exceed other states, while the feds only require tests in Math, ELA and Science New York State requires five regents exams, and two of the exams (ELA and Algebra) are common core exams. Other states retain low standards to increase test scores and graduation rates; in New York State students come first, rather than your churlish comments you should have offered praise. Yes, we must address the challenges in the “Big Five,” we must target our growing population of English language learners, and, especially the disparity in funding from district to district.

I agree that the Governor has little direct authority over education. In fact, the Commissioner also has limited authority. The East Ramapo School District transferred millions upon millions of dollars from public to non-public parochial schools. Hank Greenberg, the state-appointed monitor excoriated and bemoaned the policies of the school board, and recommended legislation. The Commissioner does not have the authority to remove a school board.

You write the Governor will “…pursue an aggressive package to improve public education.”

I suggest that in the State of the State message the Governor announce he will support a constitutional amendment to abolish the Board of Regents and place education totally under the control of the Governor. In the interim he should introduce legislation to move the appointment of the Commissioner under the authority of the Governor.

Allow the public to decide the future of school governance in a constitutional referendum.

For thirty years New York City education was governed by a school board appointed jointly by the boro presidents and mayors. There was no accountability, electeds claimed credit for successes and blamed chancellors for failures. Chancellors came and went as mayors dumped one after another. The move to mayoral control was widely supported, including by the teacher union. For the first eight years Mayor Bloomberg basked in successes, for his last four years he suffered as the public lost confidence in his policies.

The successes, or lack thereof, of schools should fall on the shoulders of the Chief Executive of the State. Blaming the toothless members of the Board of Regents is a copout; the Governor either allows the Regents and the Commissioner to run the state school system or moves to take control and responsibility for education in the State of New York.

Your comment, “As you know, the Governor has little power over education, which is governed by the Board of Regents,” would draw smiles from Regents members.

The unpaid, unstaffed Regents have no control over budget, no control over any of the 700 school districts; they can adopt regulations but do not have the power to enforce the regulations and must comply with policy decisions made in Washington. The current teacher evaluation law, which may or may not need fine tuning, was strongly supported by the Governor.

What is unsaid in your letter is the method of funding education in New York State. Schools in high tax districts offer a wide range of elective and advanced placement classes, teams, bands and extracurricular activities. Education takes place in beautiful buildings with superb physical plants; classroom stocked with computers and smart boards; in low tax districts students and teachers work in dilapidated buildings, district struggles to buy fuel to heat buildings.

The Governor should use the State of the State to announce he was abolishing local property taxes, all school funding would come from Albany as part of the budgeting process

The current 2% property tax cap is forcing districts to make cut after cut in school programs, wealthier districts have been able to sustain programs while an increasing number of low wealth district are effectively bankrupt. The situation will only get worse.

You write,

“We understand that change is difficult and that there are political realities but please give your opinion without political filters or the consideration of the power of special interests and respond on what you think is best as a pure matter of policy. Leave the political maneuvering to the to the legislative process so at least the conversation is informed and the public see what enlightened policy would do” and list twelve questions.

Your first “question” is actually a list of question about the teacher evaluation system. Hamilton Langford, one of the most highly regarded educational researchers, in a just-released report, writes,

… since 1999 the academic ability of both individuals certified and those entering teaching [in New York State] has steadily increased. These gains are widespread and have resulted in a substantial narrowing of the differences in teacher academic ability between high and low poverty schools and between white and minority teachers. We interpret these gains as evidence that the status of teaching is improving.

Jim, the APPR, the teacher evaluation tool, will not improve teaching. The pool of prospective teachers is large, 80% of SUNY graduates in elementary education who received certification in education have failed to find jobs. Teachers serve a three year probationary periods that can be extended. In high poverty districts fifty percent of teacher leave within five years.

Yes, perhaps we should look more closely at the results of the APPR in New York City as to lessons learned as the scores would seem to mirror the realities of instructional competencies.

What is not a good sign is that the number of students entering teacher education programs in New York State is declining. Clearly the incessant teacher-bashing is discouraging students from entering teacher preparation programs.

You wrote, “While some seek to demonize teachers, Governor Cuomo believes the exact opposite.” Unfortunately that is not the perception of teachers. The Governor’s offhand comment re “breaking the public school monopoly” was perceived by teachers as “demonizing teachers.”

Your “accusation” that it is “almost impossible” to discharge teachers is inaccurate. In New York City the union and the city negotiated significant changes in the law; from the date charges are preferred against a teacher arbitrators must render decisions within four months and the length of time is actually less. Commissioner King characterized the New York City procedures as a “model for New York State.”

You query about the advisability of a “one-time” competency test for in-service teachers, would this exam replace replace the current evaluation system? Would you recommend lawyers take annual bar exams?

Your comment “should the state create a program whereby teachers have to be recertified every several years, like lawyers …,” brings a smile to my face. My lawyer friends take “courses” in Hawaii to fulfil the requirement to keep their license updated.

What you refer to as “financial and other incentives” has been negotiated in New York City. The current contract creates a range of teacher titles with additional salary for increased instructional responsibilities. Endless attempts to tie financial remuneration, merit pay, to student test scores have failed everywhere. Teachers quit due to a “lack of administrative support” and teachers move to other schools to teach higher achieving students. Teachers remain in high poverty schools due to the climate of the school – teachers thrive in collegial cultures – merit pay sets teacher against teacher.

Buffalo’s problems cannot be considered in a vacuum: continuing high unemployment, generational poverty, a contentious school board, increasing numbers of English language learners, declining revenues … and a revolving door of superintendents. The state did take over the Roosevelt School District, without much success. The “solutions” for Buffalo schools must be part of a larger Buffalo plan, in other words you cannot improve education in Buffalo without improving the City of Buffalo

In November the Board of Regents authorized a charter school in Rochester, a few days later we found out that the “lead sponsor” was a 22-year old with a fraudulent resume and the charter school board lacked the credentials and expertise to run a school. How did the Commissioner approve such a school? Ineptitude? Behind the scenes politics? At the December Board of Regents meeting a number of New York City charter schools were recommended by NYC for renewal. The charter schools claimed the right to “expel” students, and, the academic data was appalling. The Board sent the renewal applications back to the City.

If charter schools are not meeting academic expectations there must be interventions, or, the charters should be revoked. The current climate gives charter schools “a pass” and must be corrected.

A larger issue: a few charter school networks raise millions upon millions of dollars from external contributors. If individuals or businesses or corporations want to contribute the dollars should NOT go to a single school, charter or public, or to a charter school network. The dollars should be “contributed” to the school district and the funds distributed by a needs formula to all schools in the district, public and charter.

Before we increase a cap, let’s remedy the inequities and failures.

Yes, the 700 school districts in New York State are an anachronism, the regionalization or consolidation must be part of changes to the school funding formula.

I addressed the last two questions earlier; the responsibility for schools should fall directly at the feet of the Governor.

I will be sitting in the audience on January 7th and I anxiously await the Governor’s education agenda and I hope my suggestions are useful.

Fraternally,

Peter Goodman
Ed in the Apple
Blogging on the Intersection of Education and Politics

Cuomo’s Education “Death Penalty” Ideas May Derail His Presidential Ambitions: Fixing Schools Means Fixing Cities.

“Fixing education” has become a political black hole.

The Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind law of 2002, hailed as the savior of public education is in shreds. The Obama-Duncan (de)forms are under attack from coast to coast – the recent Gallup Poll pours ice water on federal initiatives. As the Bloomberg era closes out the public gives him high marks – except for schools – a Zogby Poll reports the public trusts teachers more than the mayor (See Sol Stern here),

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.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal planned to replace public education with a total choice program with vouchers provided to parents. The court found his plan unconstitutional and his approval ratings have plummeted, what once looked like a potential 2016 presidential run is derailed.

Governor Bush fired his newly hired state commissioner who cheated to make charter schools look better in Indiana – before the voters threw him out.

It is surprising that the strategic governor of New York State seems to be venturing down the same path. Governor Cuomo is extremely cautious, he rarely meets with the press except under totally controlled atmospheres. He never releases his daily schedule except for orchestrated appearances. He swept aside pressures to end layoffs by seniority and gained teacher union support for a teacher evaluation system. He garnered legislative support for a new Tier 6 of the state pension system by supporting a range of legislature supported programs. He effectively arm twisted the marriage equality law and in spite of vigorous opposition from the state teacher union (NYSUT) passed a 2% property tax cap that has effectively sidetracked negotiated salary increases for teachers around the state, not in New York City which does not fall under the 2% cap.

The usually cautious governor seems to be wandering down the same path that has sullied the reputation of the president, governors and mayors across the nation.

Governor Cuomo, in an upstate speech, threatened the “death penalty” for upstate and Long Island low achieving schools.

Speaking to reporters in Lockport, Niagara County, Cuomo said Thursday he plans to craft a plan for dealing with “failing schools” when lawmakers return to the state Capitol in January.

“My position is going to be, we’ll give (the schools) a short window to repair themselves, and then something dramatically has to happen,” Cuomo said late Thursday. “Because we can’t allow these failing schools to continue.”
The Democratic governor laid out a number of possibilities for dealing with underperforming schools, including potentially allowing the state, a local mayor or a charter school to take over. Any of those moves would require approval by state lawmakers.

“There’s going to have to be a death penalty for failing schools, so to speak,” Cuomo said.
(Watch the Cuomo statement here)

The just-released scores on the latest Common Core-based state exams place Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and a few other school districts 20+% below the state proficiency rates – according the state tests staggering numbers in poor, urban, upstate districts “failed” the test.

• In Buffalo, 11.5% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 9.6% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• In Yonkers, 16.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 14.5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• In New York City, 26.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 29.6% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• In Rochester, 5.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• In Syracuse, 8.7% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 6.9% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

While the governor is flailing schools he conveniently forgets about the economies in the same cities.

In spite of three years of gubernatorial announcements about economic development in the faltering upstate cities unemployment remains high and the future bleak.

The once booming economies in Rochester and across the northern tier are long gone, and will never return. The promised high tech jobs, if they are created, will not benefit the inner city youth in the hollowed out cities across the state, a situation replicated across the nation.

If you superimpose poverty by zip code, unemployment, poor health, crime, teenage pregnancy, and school achievement, lo and behold, the maps are congruent (See Poverty by zip code here)). From Los Angeles to Phoenix to Denver to Houston to East St Louis to Chicago to Detroit to Philadelphia to New York to Buffalo to Rochester and Syracuse the pattern is the same.

The “standard solution” forced by the feds, closing and reopening schools, charter schools, turnaround or transformation, has churned not resolved the problem of low school achievement.

The “plan,” the successes, and there are success, are plans that are research-based, crafted locally, carefully monitored by the city/state and coupled with a community-wide approach, not just based on school restructuring.

Strong district and school leadership, quality instruction, content rich curriculum, a collaborative partnership, over time, will improve outcomes.

The governor has to do his part: jobs, health care, housing must go hand-in-hand with school improvement plans.

The “takeover” of a school district is not new in New York State; in 2002 the State Education Department received legislative approval to “takeover” the Roosevelt School District, a 2010 Report found “modest gains,” unfortunately very modest. In June, 2012 the commissioner recommended continuing the state takeover due to a lack of gains in pupil achievement (See State Report here)

The governor threatens to support legislation to give the State Education Department the authority to “takeover” school districts, yet eleven years after taking over Roosevelt the district still stumbles academically.

The commissioner is also currently battling the Buffalo School Board and superintendent, threatening to revoke the registration of the schools as well as “suspending or terminating” School Improvement Grant (SIG) dollars. (See King letter here)

The recent history of governor’s taking over school districts has not been positive – the heralded creation of a governor’s district in Connecticut – the taking over of low performing schools and school districts (See glossy description here) has fallen on hard times in Bridgeport. An excellent Washington Post article dissects the failed premises of the “sprinter” turnaround experts – a superb read here.

The governor’s flippant “death penalty” threat can easily come back to haunt him. Has the unemployment rate fallen in Buffalo, or Rochester or Syracuse? Have grandiose plans and pronouncements in State of the State messages come to fruition?

Communities are organic and schools are part of the organism – you cannot separate the school from the community – you must “cure” the ills of the community. Yes, strong district and school leadership, an engaged staff, a jointly-arrived at plan along with the creation of jobs can resuscitate a city.

To expect that schools will thrive without considering the zip code is illusory.

To expect that the state education departments have a magic wands and fairy dust is ludicrous. Why is Roosevelt, after eleven years, still under state management?

Maybe the governor’s inner circle should take a look at his counterparts in Indiana and Florida and Wisconsin and Louisiana…. quick fix efforts have dragged down careers.

Gavin Newsom, the Lt Governor of California, in October, 2012 laid out the challenges of cities in a time of fiscal austerity; thirty to fifty cities across the nation may be on the road to bankruptcy, Newsom offers some possible paths in a speech at the Milano Institute at the New School University (Worthwhile listening to here).

Andrew’s road to the White House might be derailed in Buffalo and Rochester and Syracuse.