Tag Archives: Carmen Farina

Is “Gifted Education” an excuse for “Segregated Education?”

New York City has a long history of gifted education, in the pre-decentralization (pre-1970) days the Board of Education set city-wide standards for Intellectually Gifted Classes (IGC) in grades four to six – two years above grade level in reading and 1.5 years above in mathematics. At the junior high school level Special Progress (SP) classes, both three years and the accelerated two year models. At the high school level the legacy high schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech entrance exams as well as entrance examinations for the four-year CUNY colleges.

Testing did not start with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the state tested all fourth and eighth graders and New York City tested all kids – there were district tests, more tests in the 1990’s than today.

With the advent of decentralization school districts had wide discretion in the designation of classes. My school district created a range of “gifted” classes, from kindergarten through the fifth grade with a district Director of Gifted Education. The district employed a psychologist to test five year olds, and parents flocked to have their kids stamped as “gifted.” District 16 (Bedford-Stuyvesant) and District 7 (South Bronx) designed a single school as the gifted school – all “gifted kids,” as defined by the district, were assigned to the gifted school.

The Frederick Douglas Academy High School was opened in the 90’s and advertised as the Stuyvesant of Harlem, a screened school intended to attract the most gifted students in Harlem.

The District 3 (Upper West Side) school boards under decentralization created two categories of schools, small “gifted schools,” schools requiring higher reading and math scores, overwhelmingly white, and the other schools, overwhelmingly Afro-American and Hispanic.

The Bloomberg administration accelerated the creation of gifted schools, schools requiring higher state test scores and/or interviews. The 1974 Callendra-Hecht Law allowed for the creation of additional schools requiring the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), the test required for the legacy high schools, five schools joined the SHSAT three legacy schools.

Over the twelve years of the Bloomberg mayoralty about two hundred screened schools were created, effectively siphoning off the higher achieving schools from the pool of schools.

Some argue that the creation and expansion of gifted classes and gifted schools is an attempt to limit “white flight,” the movement that began in the 50’s and 60’s of white families fleeing to the suburbs as black and Hispanic families moved into neighborhoods. The district in which I served as the teacher union representative fell into that category, the gifted programs were widely advertised, real estate offices were provided with folders praising the qualities of local schools, emphasizing the “Eagle” program, the name of the local gifted program.

The Bloomberg initiative might have been aimed at keeping Bloomberg voters in the city, neighborhoods lobbied for the creation of screened program, the newer euphemism for gifted schools.

Whether attempting to halt a new wave of white flight, or middle class flight or wanting to pacify potential voters the result has been to segregate schools as well as neighborhoods across the city.

The 2014 UCLA Civil Right Project study,

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

 Any argument that gifted children, whatever that means, requiring separate classes or separate schools lacks credibility.

Dawn X. Henderson (2017), “When ‘Giftedness’ Is a Guise for Exclusion,” writes,

Institutional racism permeates the public education system … Racism exists in the structure and processes of the public education system. It is often unconscious and difficult to challenge and change because people believe it is quite natural for one group of people to be dominant or intellectual inferior compared to another group of people. Society will also point to poor parenting and innate differences in intelligence, especially when we have “model minorities” who historically perform well on these tests. Metrics of ability and aptitude are given to affirm these beliefs and institutional structures such as “gifted” programs or college preparatory courses are pathways that sort individuals into this hierarchy.

 The selection process for admission to gifted programs is plagued with implicit bias and outright discrimination.

Courville and DeRouen, Louisiana State University (2009) “Minority Bias in Identification and Assessment of Gifted Students: A Historical Perspective and Prospects for the Future,” argues,

With a long history of research highlighting cultural bias against minority groups of varying ethnicities and culture, as well as contributing factors to discrimination such as gender and socioeconomic class, it would seem that increased awareness of a discriminatory past would lead to a reduction or elimination of bias in the identification process. Unfortunately, such a reduction has not been the prevailing trend, with present day educators continuing a systemic pattern of minority under representation.

 Joseph Renzulli at the Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education and Talent Development  has shown us that highly effective gifted education can take place within heterogeneous classrooms, while some schools and school districts have employed the Renzulli methods the screening and creation of separate classrooms still prevails.

For the last four years Chancellor Farina has simply ignored the issue – she was far more comfortable with the past, trying to support the pre-Bloomberg days in which she thrived. She was principal of PS 6 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a school that carefully selected their student body, it was, in effect, a private school at public school prices.

The Diversity Task Force is not due to report until December, the State Diversity and Equity Work Group are planning conference for the 18-19 school year, and, in the city the pressure builds.

The teacher union president, in an op ed in the NY Daily News “Diversify High Schools Now  http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/diversify-n-y-high-schools-article-1.4017794 suggests a number of commonsense methods, correcting a system that now creates “winning” and “losing” schools based on pre-determined entrance requirements, effectively clustering the lowest achieving kids in specific schools and holding all schools to the accountability metrics.

Mayor de Blasio, using Chalkbeat, the online education site, suggests his own plan,

Right now, we are living with monumental injustice. The prestigious high schools make 5,000 admissions offers to incoming ninth-graders. Yet, this year just 172 black students and 298 Latino students received offers. This happened in a city where two out of every three eighth-graders in our public schools are Latino or black.

There’s also a geographic problem. There are almost 600 middle schools citywide. Yet, half the students admitted to the specialized high schools last year came from just 21 of those schools. For a perfect illustration of disparity: Just 14 percent of students at Bronx Science come from the Bronx.

My administration has been working to give a wider range of excellent students a fair shot at the specialized high schools. Now we are going to go further. Starting in September 2019, we’ll expand the Discovery Program to offer 20 percent of specialized high school seats to economically disadvantaged students who just missed the test cut-off.

De Blasio also calls for changing the current law that requires the use of the SHSAT as the sole entrance criteria.

It seems odd that the mayor suggests a plan to integrate the specialized high schools while his appointee, the chancellor, is still studying the problem. The chancellor can say, “great idea – let’s do it,” or create his own plan, and, the specialized high school “problem” while high profile fails to impact the other 400 or so high schools and 1200 or so other public schools.

Hovering in the background is the specter of the opens admissions debacle at the CUNY four-year colleges, the roiling civil right movement of the 60’s exploded on the City College campus in 1969 and the CUNY administration moved to an open admissions system, that became highly controversial.  Earlier today, wearing my City College cap, a gentleman asked, “What year?” We chatted, I asked, “Do you belong to the Alumni Association?” “No,” he responded, “I quit after open admissions, it ruined the college.” I assured him it returned to its former glory.

While open admissions formally ended in the 90’s, the admission is now selective; the City College student body reflects the population of the city.

Folks are still arguing over a program that began almost fifty years ago and was terminated twenty-five year ago.

Five weeks into the job, think Richard Carranza is having any second thoughts?

Michael Mulgrew: Tip-toeing between Cuomo and de Blasio, the Scylla and Charybdis of Education Politics in New York

Michael Mulgrew: Tip-toeing between Cuomo and de Blasio, the Scylla and Charybdis   of Education Politics in New York

New York City is a mayoral control city, meaning that the school leader, called the chancellor, is appointed by school board members (the Panel for Educational Priorities), a majority of whom are appointed by the mayor.  The chancellor is actually the deputy to the mayor for education. Chancellor Carranza’s tenure begins today – managing over 1800 schools, 1.1 million students and over 100,000 unionized employees. The chancellor’s chief of staff is Ursulina Ramirez who served in same role for the mayor in his previous elected office, Public Advocate. The agenda of the chancellor is the agenda of the mayor: both succeed or neither succeeds. Management models vary, from mayoral control (New York, Chicago, Boston, etc.) to Los Angeles, an elected board with millions spent on the elections to Houston, a divided nine-member board elected by geographic areas competing for resources; there is no right or wrong model.

The Mayor of New York City is an outspoken progressive who won a hotly contested 4-way primary election in 2013 and rolled to easy victories in the general elections in 2013 and 2017. Although de Blasio is firmly in the progressive camp the 51-member City Council is much further to the left. De Blasio is term limited, meaning he is building a national reputation for his next run for office, whatever it might be.

A hundred and twenty miles to the north is Albany, the state capital and the political home of Andrew Cuomo, running for his third term as governor. In spite a Republican-controlled Senate Cuomo signed one of the first Marriage Equality laws as well as the strictest gun control laws in the nation. No matter: he is being challenged from the left by Cynthia Nixon, an actor with a long resume of political activism.

De Blasio and Cuomo, both with progressive creds, are bitter enemies, each claiming the progressive mantle.

Tip-toeing between the two most powerful electeds in New York State is the leader of the New York City teacher union (UFT), Michael Mulgrew, who began his career as a carpenter and rather surprisingly became the fifth president of the UFT in 2009. Under constant attack from Mayor Bloomberg Mulgrew not only successfully thwarted the mayor’s attempts to erode the union’s contract, the public trusted the union more than the mayor. Sol Stern in the conservative City Journal reported,

… according to a poll of city voters … 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.

 While the UFT did not endorse de Blasio in the primary Mulgrew has developed an excellent relationship with the mayor. After more than four years without a contract Mulgrew and de Blasio negotiated a contract with full back pay, de Blasio appointed Carmen Farina, a Department of Education lifer, created the 70,000 student pre-K for All program, and reaped constant praise on teachers. De Blasio and Mulgrew clearly like each other and de Blasio’s appearance at the UFT Delegate Assembly, a huge success – teachers like him.

The brand new de Blasio-Carranza administration faces negotiating a teacher contract; the current agreement expires on November 30th, although in New York State expired agreements remain in force until the successor agreement is agreed upon. One issue is paid maternity/child care leaves; teachers have to use sick days, there is no paid leave. Under Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) policies contracts must comply with “ability to pay” and “patterning bargaining.” Simply put: the union and the city will have to find dollars apart from the base salary increase or reduce the negotiated salary increase, which is unlikely.  Another major issue that applies only to the UFT is the Absent Teacher Reserve, 700 plus teachers who were excessed from closed schools, each year every closed school pumps more teachers into the pool: a bad Bloomberg policy and an expensive policy. If the ATRs are returned to schools can the dollars saved be used for a paid maternity/child care leave settlement?  Just speculating!  I imagine this week, while teachers are on spring break, the new chancellor will be meeting with all the players on the NYC education scene.

The union’s relationship with Cuomo is far more complicated.

The UFT is the largest local in NYSUT, the state teacher union organization. There are 700 school districts, 700 local teacher unions in the state. From New York City, to the other “Big Five” (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Yonkers), to the high tax, high wealth suburban districts to the hundreds of low wealth rural districts that struggle to pay heating bills. The gap in funding among school districts in New York State is among the greatest in the nation.  That’s right: we lead the nation in racially segregated schools and the inequality of school funding.

NYSUT represents all the locals and lobbies for more education dollars for all schools, Cuomo added a section to the budget requiring districts to phase in a dollar by dollar accounting of all education expenditures: a first step to equalizing state education dollars?

Bruce Baker in his superb School Finance 101 blog  is concise,

            To be blunt, money does matter. Schools and districts with more money clearly have greater ability to provide higher-quality, broader, and deeper educational opportunities to the children they serve. Furthermore, in the absence of money, or in the aftermath of deep cuts to existing funding, schools are unable to do many of the things they need to do in order to maintain quality educational opportunities. Without funding, efficiency tradeoffs and innovations being broadly endorsed are suspect. One cannot tradeoff spending money on class size reductions against increasing teacher salaries to improve teacher quality if funding is not there for either – if class sizes are already large and teacher salaries non-competitive. While these are not the conditions faced by all districts, they are faced by many.

While good for New York City, equity in school funding could set school district against school district across the state and “wealthier” local teacher unions versus “poorer” local teacher unions.

NYSUT opposes the use of student data to assess teacher performance, the current matrix system that combines supervisory observations with measures of student learning is supported by UFT, the new system sharply reversed the Bloomberg era – over 3000 adverse rating.

NYSUT comes close to endorsing the opt-out movement, 20% of parents, heavily concentrated in the suburbs are the opt-out base, very few opt-out schools in NYC and the UFT position is: a parental choice.

The elephants will continue to trample the grass: Is Cuomo maneuvering for a 2020 presidential run, and, if so, how will he situate himself on progressive, educational and teacher union issues?

De Blasio is term-limited, what are his political aspirations?

Although de Blasio is on the left; the furthest left since La Guardia, not far enough to the left for his political rivals within the Democratic Party.

Cuomo has a progressive resume and continues to push toward more and more anti-gun measures and has forced the city to cough up millions for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and to repair the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), aka low-income housing, using the budgetary powers of the governor to pre-empt the powers of the NYC mayor.

There is a long history of political rivalry in New York; back in 1804 after tossing insults back and forth Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton “settled” their dispute on the Palisades. While dueling pistols are now museum pieces the modern equivalent is alive and well. Joe Prococo, Cuomo’s closest assistant, whose father Mario called my “third son,” is convicted of taking bribes while working as son Andrew’s closest confident, A strong supporter of de Blasio, Cynthia Nixon, is running against Cuomo in the September democratic primary. Cuomo forces de Blasio to budget hundreds of millions for MTA repairs even though the MTA is a state agency, and, also forces de Blasio to budget 250 million for NYCHA repairs overseen by an outside monitor.

In midst of the boulder throwing Mulgrew has to work with the two Megatrons, a daunting task.

Even within the union the political caucuses urge moving to the left, supporting or opposing this candidate or that candidate. The union meetings, the monthly Delegate Assemblies give Mulgrew and opportunity to “teach,” to float ideas, to interact with local school union leadership.

In my early days as a school district union leader a new superintendent, with a tough reputation was selected, some school union leaders argued we should picket his office on his first day, show him we’re as tough as he was reputed to be. I was fortunate, I was mentored by union leadership who spent a career in the foxholes of politics, dodging bullets and bombs from both sides. I realized I didn’t only represent the militants, I represented all the members. My day-to-day job was responding to their needs: getting a salary or health plan issue resolved, an emergency leave approved, getting a principal off a teacher’s back, and I needed a nod from the superintendent. We worked out a “mature” relationship, we “agreed to disagree” on issues, no surprises, always gave him a heads up if I was going to be publicly critical, and public acclaim for doing “the right thing,” and, not to slighted, we were both avid Mets fans.

On a much larger stage Mulgrew has navigated the political landscape, both praising and criticizing city and state leadership, and, teaching his membership, politics is a romance with good days and not so good days.

If he can get de Blasio and Cuomo to hug, I have a problem in the Middle East he can tackle next.

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.

And the Next New York City Schools Chancellor Will/ Or, Will Not Be (According to the NY Times, and friends) …..

It’s been thirty days and no leadership decision has been made , no, not the schools chancellor, the NY Giants coach! For many New Yorkers a far more important decision than who occupies the seat in the Tweed Courthouse  (the ornate 19th century building that houses the Department of Education). There is no time frame for the decision, the mayor announced that Carmen Farina, the current chancellor, will be retiring and a replacement will be named in the coming months.

The speculation began as whispers and has now become a contest. Eva Moskowitz came out with her list of fourteen possibilities. A friend half-joked, “If I really wanted the job that’s a list I would not want to be on.”

Charles Sahm, at the Manhattan Institute mused over possible contenders, “Six intriguing candidates for New York City chancellor”.

Chalkbeat, the education website joined in with its list of possibles, “What you should know about seven people who could be the next New York City chancellor.”.

Eliza Shapiro at Politico took a different tack, “Here’s Who Won’t Be the Next NYC Chancellor.”

A New York Times editorial endorsed a list of candidates praising the Bloomberg years and demeaning the de Blasio/Farina years, “Some Bright Hopes for NYC Schools.”

Let’s conduct an exercise, a list of qualities or requirements necessary in the next chancellor: experience in leading a large urban school system and/or a record of success in prior educational leadership posts, demonstrated experience in working with parent and advocacy groups, especially the teacher union, experience in working in New York City would be helpful, plus, demonstrated experience in working in a highly politicized environment, a public persona with a demonstrated ability to communicate with media outlets (“get out the message”), and, the key acknowledgment: you are not a superintendent or a chancellor, in reality, in a mayoral control city you are the deputy mayor for education. Every policy decision you make will be vetted by the mayor and you will be expected to successfully implement mayoral initiatives.

Next step: Do any of the “candidates” referenced above fit the bill?

How about someone who (a) created and implemented the only large urban city program for low performing schools that was successful, (b) successfully led two large urban school systems, and (c) in her last job led the nation in academic growth in the third largest school system in the nation “Chicago leading nation in growth scores.

Before you get too excited, Barbara Byrd Bennett had a secret, she was a compulsive gambler and illegally took dollars from vendors, she is currently a “guest” of the federal government.

Rumors were that she was the de Blasio # 1 choice four years ago, she declined, she had promised to complete her contractual obligation in Chicago.

Of all the “speculations” the New York Times is the furthest out of the mainstream. The editorial folk at the Times are fixated on the chaotic twelve years of Mayor Bloomberg,

Mayor Bill de Blasio took control of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, four years ago, denouncing the aggressive, data-driven approach to school improvement that his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, had used with considerable success. Mr. de Blasio’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña — who recently announced her retirement — shared his vague agenda.

…  the proven school managers whose accomplishments make them appealing candidates will be hesitant to accept the post in the absence of a clear, compelling mayoral vision and backing for forceful action on behalf of students.

The mayor has described his mission over the next four years as promoting equity and excellence, but those goals remain largely out of reach, even as test scores have inched up and graduation rates have risen. In fact, the city needs to move more urgently on three fronts: ending profound racial segregation; closing failing schools while opening better ones; and finding more effective ways to train good teachers, retain the best teachers and move the worst ones out of the system.

How fast the editorial writers forget:

  • Four major management system upheavals that kept the school system in permanent turmoil. (from Regions, to ill-defined Knowledge Networks, to Empowerment to Affinity Networks)
  • The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) system, a Bloomberg/Klein “innovation”
  • The Open Market Transfer system, actually “teacher free agency,” teachers can move from school to school, moving from high poverty, lower performing to higher performing schools guaranteeing that low performing schools would be continually staffed by neophyte teachers.
  • The “data-driven” systems included SESEIS, an online special education database that was a disaster and actually deprived students of services rather than tracking services.
  • Creating over a hundred “screened” schools, increasing segregation and pulling higher achieving kids out of poor schools effectively lowering achievement in those schools.

I could go on and on; yes, the Bloomberg/Klein leadership closed 150 schools, many, not all, were beyond repair, and created 500 schools, initially with academic gains, gains that have eroded; however, the battles with teachers and their union extinguished many of the early accomplishments.

Is the de Blasio/Farina agenda “vague,”?  Universal PreK and 3 for All (PreK for 3-year olds beginning in the poorest district) will positively impact lives for generations.

Ending profound segregation,” has a nice ring; only 14% of the children in the school system are white and most children attend hyper-segregated schools that reflect neighborhoods.

 “Closing failing schools and creating better ones,” seems simple, no one has found a magic bullet. Closing an elementry school and opening a successor school in the same building has not been a winning strategy.

“ …finding more effective ways to train good teachers, retain the best teachers and move the worst ones out of the system,” is exactly what the current de Blasio negotiated union contract does, sets aside time each week for professional development; retaining the best teachers in the highest poverty schools under the Bloomberg “free agency” and data mania has driven teachers to higher performing schools or out of the system. The Times doesn’t know, or, fails to comprehend, the current New York State teacher evaluation system includes expedited hearings, allows management to bring charges after two “ineffective” ratings and moves the burden of proof to the teacher.

The Bloomberg years, like former partners, look better in retrospect, the pain and anguish fades.

Picking winners, like picking school/school district leaders can be a “roll of the dice.”

I’ve participated in interviews, sat in audiences while superintendent candidates were interviewed and watched interviews online, all sort of “speed dating.”

For some you kept glancing at your watch, it was agony to listen; others were glib, well-rehearsed answers, a few charming; however, the quality of the interview does not translate into the effectiveness on the job. You vet, you contact the former employer, parents and electeds and I called the teacher union leader.

It’s hard to see someone without ties to the city leading a 1.1 million children system, a system so embroiled in political agendas. Dan Drumm, the new chair of the City Council Finance Committee is a 25-year teacher and a union activist in his teaching days, Mark Tryger, the new chair of the Council Education Committee was a high school teacher four years ago, and an outspoken critic of the Bloomberg data-madness. Betty Rosa, the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents was a career teacher, principal and superintendent in the Bronx.

I’m not going to list “favorites,” don’t want to jinx anyone, it is a monumental task, as I wrote earlier this Jesus-Mohammad-Moses-Buddha-like personage is hard to find.

Maybe the feds will let Barbara become chancellor as part of a work release program?

BTW, if you haven’t discovered it yet you must watch “Rita,” about a “kick-ass” Danish teacher, it is fantastic, click on the link: https://www.buzzfeed.com/matwhitehead/one-less-lonely-hjordis?utm_term=.ism55mqKo#.tjnddzqQZ

How Do You Choose a New Chancellor for the NYC School System …? Is a Jesus-Moses-Muhammad-Gandhi-like Chancellor Waiting in the Wings?

The New York Yankees decided to have an open procedure in the search for a new manager. The candidates were publicly announced and met the press immediately after the interview. The media debated the candidates and the decision was widely applauded. The New York Mets held their interviews in-house, no announcements of candidates and announced the new manager with fanfare, again, a popular choice.

 At a press conference, de Blasio said he has already begun a national search to replace Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who formally announced her retirement on Thursday. He emphasized that he is not looking for someone to shake things up but rather wants someone who will follow through on the course that he and Fariña set out. He also committed to hiring an educator, an important criteria for the mayor when he chose Fariña that set him apart from the previous administration.

 The mayor said he plans to select a new chancellor in the next few months ….  He gave little information about the search process, saying only that it will be an internal, quiet decision.

 If the plan is to hire “someone who will follow through on the course that [de Blasio] and Fariña set out,” why a nationwide search, select from among the deputy chancellors, Dorita Gibson, Phil Weinberg, or from among the members of the Board of Regents who were highly effective superintendents, Regents Chin, Cashin, Rosa or Young? In the 90’s three chancellor’s, Cortines, Green and Crew, from across the nation stumbled.

Unspecified insiders paint a different picture of the mayor/chancellor relationship, the NY Daily News reports,

… behind the door … insiders have said de Blasio has been growing impatient with Farina’s inability to communicate his education agenda to the public.

“De Blasio thinks the schools are doing great,” said one Education Department official who requested anonymous. “He can’t understand why he gets negative coverage and pushback over things like school safety.”

Farina, in a self-assessment, looking over her four years mused,

“The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that we have brought back dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system,” Fariña said.

 The speculation was that Carmen would stay a year or two, and de Blasio would select the “big name,” the new leader; Carmen surprised the sages.

Why wasn’t “the message” getting out? If you look at the pieces of data emerging from schools: higher graduation rates, jumps in test scores, Universal Pre-K, 3 for All;  De Blasio can’t understand the negative coverage from the Post, the Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute and a host of blog sites.

 Marshall McLuhan is famous for the phrase, “the medium is the message,” and the LcLuhan website explains,

… the message of a newscast are not the news stories themselves, but a change in the public attitude towards crime, or the creation of a climate of fear. A McLuhan message always tells us to look beyond the obvious and seek the non-obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new thing.

The same can be said for de Blasio himself, in spite of historically low homicide rates, improvements in quality of life, a thriving economy, the negative side, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, transit woes dominate the news.

De Blasio, in person, has an electric personality, charming, engaged, a wonderful public speaker. I was at an annual Christmas season community event a few weeks ago. The hundreds in the diverse crowd were local folks with their kids to see the Christmas lights turned on: Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, Trish James, the Public Advocate and the Mayor spoke, de Blasio charmed the crowd. In September I attended a community Town Hall, de Blasio interacting with a community, hosted by the City Counsel member. For a few hours de Blasio answered questions, knowledgeable, accessible, and seemingly caring about each and every story or complaint.

Yet the press hammers away, at press availability de Blasio is uncomfortable, snarky, why are they asking me about the “bad stuff” and not the “good stuff?”

Charming in person and not able to enunciate a message across the city.

Cuomo, on the other hand, only meets with the public and the press at carefully controlled events with questions limited to the single topic. I can’t remember an open press conference.  Cuomo reads speeches, issues press releases, stands on a stage surrounded by acolytes to announce this or that; the other end of the spectrum from de Blasio.

Aloof in person, effectively sends a message: I am in charge, I am the your leader.

Trump meets the nation through tweets, and campaign rallies, he is at the center, whether you like him or not he is the center of attention, he is the imperial and imperious president.,

We have moved from the era of the presser, from print media to the era of social media, an era of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, websites; the New York Times has more online subscribers than hard print purchasers.

The number one “quality” of a new Chancellor should be the ability to communicate, to carry the message.

The substance might be less important than the message.

The current Farina education menu is a la carte. There are dozens, maybe scores, of “new initiatives,” the administration has tossed dollars and “programs” at criticism and perceived “problems.”  On the left hand column the “problem,” in the middle column the programmatic response, on the right side the cost, check off and move on to the next issue.  The old Board of Education was once described as a mass of silly putty, you could stick your finger in and change the shape with ease; however, slowly but surely the lump regained its amorphous shape.

I occasionally call a teacher in a Renewal School to catch up on what’s happening in her school: lots of meetings, lots people floating through, lots of data collection, and lots of confusion.

Me: “Do they ask for feedback, do they ask you for suggestions, do they follow through on teacher ideas?”

Teacher: “Not really, we’re polite, we listen, we try and implement the instructional changes, the new programs seem to be in conflict with other programs, it’s frustrating and depressing.”

I speak with a principal: “A cluster of schools, mine included, was getting significant dollars from a grant, the superintendent asked for ideas, we carefully researched, eventually the program was announced, none of our ideas made the cut, the programs were disconnected, it was chaotic, every program wanted a piece of our kids.”

On the state level the Rosa/Elia team has learned the lesson.

Former Commissioner John King “declared” change after change, call them reform after reform, with most of the Regents rubber stamping, and, defending each and every “reform.” Whether or not the reforms had merit faded as opposition to King increased. King became the message, not the value or lack thereof of the reforms.

Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Elia have “included” the immediate world. Task forces, work groups, gatherings all over the state, at times a seemingly tedious and overly lengthy process resulting in this initiative or that initiative.  The message: we want to involve you, all of you, we will listen, and you’re “in the tent.”

The move from the Common Core to the Next Generation Standards garnered thousands of online comments, endless meetings across the state; I attended a meeting in Brooklyn with over 100 teachers interacting with city and state staffers. I attended a meeting at the union with a few Regents members and a number of math teachers who served on one of the task forces.

The Next Generation Standards were adopted with minimal opposition. Are they “better” than the Common Core standards? I have no idea, the message was clear: everyone will have their opportunity to participate in the change process.

In New York City the Panel for Educational Priorities (PEP), the central board meetings are poorly attended, the Community Education Councils (CEC), the local school boards, have numerous unfilled slots and, once again, the people on the stage outnumber the people in the audience.

The message is clear, you don’t really count, we’re doing what we think is the right path.

Carmen was the right person at the right time, replacing an administration that thrived on chaos and confrontation. Some of the Bloomberg/Klein initiatives had disastrous consequences (Open Market transfers allowing teachers to hop from school to school setting up a steady drain of teachers away from the lowest achieving schools) to others that made perfect sense (a longer school day, time for professional development and sharply higher wages) and to some that are debatable (school closing and new school creation). Eventually the public came to the conclusion, polling data confirms,  we trust teachers more than the mayor to create education policy.

The Farina policies lack coherence; for example, there is no New York City curriculum. Carmen likes programs devised by Lucy Calkins and Lucy West, and some superintendents force principals to use the programs, others abhor the programs. The answer to why there is no curriculum has been “we’re working on it.”  Increasingly curriculum is seen to be at the core of improved outcomes.

David Steiner, former New York State Chancellor, writes, ,

An education system without an effective instructional core is like a car without a working engine: It can’t fulfill its function. No matter how much energy and money we spend working on systemic issues – school choice, funding, assessments, accountability, and the like – not one of these policies educates children. That is done only through curriculum and teachers: the material we teach and how effectively we teach it.

Why has it taken four years to address the school diversity issue? The controversy around school segregation began with a research paper from The Civil Right Project at UCLA,

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

The Farina administration tarried, the pressure to create a school integration plan in New York came from two members of the City Council and a number of advocacy organizations, Carmen finally created a plan that has been criticized by the advocates and electeds.

To make matters more complex, a recent research paper from the Metro Center at NYU, “Separate But Unequal: Comparing Achievement in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools,” finds only modest differences and makes a range of other policy recommendations.

Analysis of 2015-16 achievement data suggests that there is a modest benefit for vulnerable students attending the City’s most diverse schools. Third and eighth grade students attending the most diverse schools modestly outperformed students attending the City’s least diverse schools on state standardized tests in both English and math.

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent)

The report includes recommendations for stimulating diversity, expanding opportunity, and interrupting segregation in New York City schools, including challenging “opportunity monopolies,” such as specialized high schools, that only provide privileges to certain groups of students. The researchers also recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Did you know the Department has an Office of Equity and Access?  Once again the Department has spun out initiative after initiative, press release after press release, with considerable backslapping. Will the meetings of the newly appointed School Diversity Group be live streamed? Will there be a website for public comments?

Do principals, teachers, advocates and New Yorkers in general, have an opportunity to participate in the policy creation process?  Sadly, no, the gulf between those who work in schools and those who lead the school system is wide. The gulf between advocates and school district leadership continues to be disturbing; it is often confrontational rather than cooperative and collegial.

The chancellor proudly announces she has visited 400 schools; however, her visits are preceded by schools scrambling to put on the right face, new bulletin boards, tighter discipline, etc. The team spends an hour or so and moves on and the school breathes a sigh of relief.

The union contract contains a consultation requirement,

The community or high school superintendent shall meet and consult once a month during the school year with representatives of the Union on matters of educational policy and development and on other matters of mutual concern.

 In my union representative days my district had a different spin, the superintendent met monthly with all the school union reps in addition to the principals and parent leaders, Prior to the Albany legislative session the superintendent hosted a meeting of all the electeds, the District Leadership Team and all the parents associations to discuss district budgetary needs.

The teacher union reps were part of the leadership process – the message from the district to the teacher leaders – we respect and welcome your views, your participation. We created active and participatory school and district leadership teams, the school teams created bylaws with specific conflict resolution guidelines. The district leadership team, the superintendent, principals and teachers, responded to intra-school conflicts.

The district created a diversity plan; over a thousand Afro-American students from overcrowded schools were bused to underutilized all-white schools at the other end of the district. It only occurred because the entire community was included in every step of the process.

In a prior post I suggested that the new chancellor, a Jesus-Moses-Mohammad-Gandhi-like person, might be difficult to identify;  I’m not a fan of the candidates on the Eva Moskowitz list, New York City has a unique culture; I am a fan of including key stakeholders (unions, etc.) on a search team, and I hope the process does not drag on for months.

The Department has always been a paramilitary organization, the general, aka, chancellor, makes a decision, superintendents and principals salute and the orders trickle down to classroom teachers, the soldiers, who nod politely, close their doors and do what they think is best.  Occasionally a superintendent or a principal, or, an island of schools creates truly collaborative worlds; they are the exception and struggle to survive.

We need a chancellor, a leader, who can communicate, who is respected; would principals, teachers, parents and advocates agree with the reflections of the current chancellor? “The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that we have brought back dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system.”

When you think of the Department do the words “dignity,” “joy” and “trust” resonate?

 I hope the mayor can find this incredible personage who can change the Department of Education from a reactive organization to a creative organization, from an organization attempting to pacify critics to an organization that truly finds a path to include diverse views, to an organization whose message is “you are part of the process,” whose outcomes lead to better outcomes for students and families.

Rule # 1 of personal and organization change: participation reduces resistance.

And the Next New York City School Chancellor Will Be ………

I understand that in an office across the city a “chancellor retirement date poll” has been established. I hope someone selects a date after November, 2021; in spite of the speculation, Farina may not be seeking warmer winter climes

Of course the rumors have been rampant for years, the first rumor: she’s only staying until a “permanent” chancellor is selected, that was almost four years ago.

New York City is a mayoral control city, the 2002 law created a central board, called the Panel for Educational Priorities (PEP), with a majority appointed by the mayor; technically the school board appoints the chancellor, in the “real” world the choice is solely that of the mayor. There is no required consultation, no “advice and consent” by the City Council. Last time round the mayor and his top advisors held interviews for chancellor in off-the-grid locations; wholly within the law.

On Tuesday, November 7th Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer and Public Advocate James will be reelected with a historically low voter turnout. The only election of interest, for leader of the City Council, only has fifty-one voters – the members of the  council. The council leader – the speaker – is the second most powerful elected office in the city.

The only requirement to be chancellor is state certification as a superintendent – and the Board of Regents has the authority to waive the requirement. Under Mayor Bloomberg, all three chancellors, Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott, required waivers. It is highly unlikely that the current Board of Regents would grant a waiver.

If the current chancellor retires one of names that the mayor might consider, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, is not qualified under the law and would require a waiver.

Let’s speculate:

An easy choice: Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson.

Gibson, a Board/Department of Education lifer has worked her way up through the system. It would be a seamless transition, not controversial, and would result in the continuation of the current policies.

A higher profile choice is Rudy Crew, a former chancellor and current leader of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. The Department of Education, the P-12 school system has never been linked to CUNY, the community and four-year colleges. Crew might make sense if the mayor envisions a seamless P-16 school system.

Three senior members of the Board of Regents have lengthy and laudatory experience in the New York City school system as well as a firm understanding of the links between the city and the state. Regents Chancellor Rosa has been a breathe of fresh air, outspoken, highly collaborative, and has created a revitalized Board. Regent Cashin, a highly successful superintendent in the poorest section of the city, beloved by parents, a tireless worker with the ability to craft collaborative solutions including diverse interests, Regent Young, also a former superintendent has led the New York State My Brothers Keeper initiative, the first in the nation, aimed at improving outcomes for young men of color.

An academic and more recent deputy chancellor, Shael Suransky is currently the President of Bank Street College,

And, we can’t forget that former commissioner and former US secretary of education John King is hanging out at a Washington think tank, although I doubt it would be a politically viable choice.

How will de Blasio make the decision? What are the considerations?

On the day after the election de Blasio becomes a lame duck mayor, term limited, and is looking past city hall. The next four years will not be easy; Washington is making drastic cuts in the budget and the only question is how drastic. The city and the state will take deep hits; Medicare, and a host of other health care related cuts, education cuts and cuts across the entire budget. And this is only the first of the Trump budgets. The last four years the city’s budget outlook has been rosy, high rise, market rate buildings mean high income tax payers, tourism at all time highs, crime rates at all time lows, and a flow of “first round draft choice” immigrants. The stock market continues to spiral upwards to incredible heights.

A stock market sell off, continued Trump budget cuts, a jittery economy could bring a downturn in city revenues with cuts to city services. The City Council is far to the left with a hunger for increased city services, restrictions on market rate construction and a host of projects the mayor, up until now, has turned aside.

What does the mayor want to see as his legacy and his future? Can the city continue to prosper under Trump policies?

As we move closer to the 2018 midterms the democrats will work to take back one or both houses of Congress, and, the cavalry charge for the democratic presidential candidates will emerge, with a dozen or more democrats and who knows what will happen on the republican side.

Does de Blasio see himself as the leader of the national democratic progressive movement? Beyond his successes in New York City?

de Blasio can urge Farina to remain, if unsuccessful select a “safe” chancellor, akin to Farina, or, a higher profile innovator, whatever that means?

In this turbulent world of a “tweet” presidency, the future is, to be kind, uncertain.

Maybe de Blasio has a “baton in his knapsack,” and sees himself being promoted to a much higher leadership position with a headquarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

What is News? How Do We Decide What News to Accept and What to Reject? Should News Be “Created?”  Why are George Orwell and Hannah Arndt Required Reading.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Thomas Jefferson

A calamitous hurricane has inundated Houston, Paul Klugman writes “Fascism, American Style,” Nick Kristoff pens, “There Once Was a Nation With an Unstable Leader,” comparing Trump to the Roman Emperor Caligula, who was killed by the Praetorian guard. North Korea flirts with nuclear annihilation, the Supreme Court has veered to the right and we fear years of court decisions turning back the clock; and, principals reported to work in New York City today.

A week ago, in spite of  swirling eddies of impending doom the New York City Chancellor (what the leader of the school system in New York City is called – formerly the Superintendent of Schools) made her annual state of the schools speech, a speech laying out initiatives for the upcoming year. The head of the City University of New York (CUNY)  also laid out his plans for the college year. The sponsor, the online, City and State news daily news accumulator also moderated a number of panels.

Farina, explained four new initiatives, the CUNY chancellor a striking change that could dramatically increase community college completion rates, all unreported by the attending media.

During the panels the moderator asked Betty Rosa, the leader of the Board of Regents, her views of Daniel Loeb, the billionaire hedge funder and Chair of the Eva Moskowitz Success Academy board: Loeb compared the leader of the Democrats in the State Senate, an Afro-American woman to the Klu Klux Klan: Rosa sharply criticized the Loeb comment and called upon Eva to remove him from the Success Board. When the moderator asked about the SUNY proposal for “instant” certification of prospective teachers Rosa and Elia sharply criticized the plan.

City and State released a summary of the event: “ELIA, FARIÑA AND MILLIKEN ADDRESS EQUITY AND ESSA AT ON EDUCATION,” here

Watch a U-Tube of the Farina and Milliken presentations here

Listen to a podcast of the Rosa/Elia fireside chat here

In spite of a packed room, and the leaders of the city and state schools attending and making major speeches, the meeting was ignored by the print media, and, Chalkbeat, the online education site, focused on the Rosa/Elia comments, “State ed officials rip into ‘insulting’ SUNY charter proposal and ‘outrageous’ Success Academy chair.”

I was chatting with a news site editor a few years ago, “I remind my reporters, there are two kinds of stories, ‘if it leads it bleeds’  and ‘cute kids and little puppies’.” I was aghast, the editor laughed, “You get the stories you want, we need screen views, “Clicks,” you click on the most outrageous or the cutest stories and ignore just plain boring news stories.

Investigative reporters look for “scandalous” stories, stories that will attract page views, investigations border on advocacy, the line between news, editorial and op ed are blurred. Are Twitter and Facebook news sites?  How many of us receive our news from Daily Kos or Breitbart? Are presidential tweets news? Should news sites report the tweets or comment on the accuracy of the tweet?

Governor Cuomo rarely, very rarely, holds a press conference, he releases news statements, he makes brief announcements, he controls the press, and, the press seems content with the arrangement. Mayor de Blasio has an antagonistic relationship with the media, who reports on the antagonism, not the news. President Trump is at war with the press, he portrays the press as the enemy.

Where do you get your news? newspapers, online newspapers, web sites, online news accumulators, Facebook, etc.,?   How do you know what to believe and what to reject?

Every morning I sift through my inbox …. what to delete and what to read? and, what to comment on …. what to retweet, what to share ….

Perhaps we should reread classics that are particularly relevant today, George Orwell’s “1984,” shot to the top of the Amazon list shortly after inauguration (Read NY Times  “Why 1984 is a Must Read“) and  Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951) Read why Arndt is essential reading here.

I respect and admire journalists in this combative climate, and I caution us all to sift carefully, Big Brother is watching us.