Tag Archives: CCNY

Can the de Blasio Specialized High School Schools Admissions Plan Avert the Disastrous City University Open Admissions Program? Or, Was Open Admission a Success?

The de Blasio plan to replace the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT)  with an admissions based on class standing in middle schools and state test scores was introduced in the Assembly and pushed into the next session, beginning in January, 2019.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly member Charles Barron to create a new admissions system for New York City’s specialized high schools (A.10427a) was today reported out of the Assembly Education Committee. This is a first step in addressing this issue, and I will be having conversations with Assembly members and various stakeholders to determine how to proceed in order to best serve New York City’s school children. The Assembly Majority will work deliberatively, speaking with all the affected communities, so that together we can find a resolution that benefits all of New York City’s students.

I am told that legislators have been flooded with messages opposing the bill, and, controversial bills rarely come to the floor. No legislator likes to create enemies, especially enemies who are well-organized and well-funded; the Assembly Speaker, wisely, decided to push the bill down the road (Read Speaker Heastie’s comments here).

The bill, which I believe is poorly crafted, replaces the SHSAT admissions test with a process as follows,

… students attending public schools located in the city of New York  who are in the top three percent of their eighth grade class, as  calculated  based  on  multiple  measures  of student achievement …  … and  who  achieve  a  composite  score above  or  at  the  cut-off composite score for the school such students have committed themselves to attend, …  provided  that  such students shall also rank in the top quarter of public school students in the eighth grade citywide based  on   such multiple measures of student achievement, and provided further that   openings  shall  be  reserved for such students at each specialized high   school as set forth in subdivision seven of this section; 

Yes, the bill leaves many questions unanswered, the bottom line, top students within individual schools across the city will have access to the specialized high schools and students with higher achievement in high achieving middle school will not achieve a spot.

I’m not going to muse on the fairness/unfairness of the current SHSAT process or the fairness/unfairness of the new proposal; the bill, as I read it, would increase numbers of students of color and reduce numbers of Asian students.  The proposal is reminiscent of the late sixties battle over the admission process to the four-year CUNY schools. For those of us of a certain age the sixties is burned in our memory, for some, sex, drugs and rock and roll, maybe not in that order, for others a free education at a CUNY school.

Today #blacklivematter and #metoo dominate the landscape, football players knelling during the national anthem, Trump’s blatantly racist tweets and comments, the criminalization of immigrants, the nation appears divided and reminiscent of the angst of the sixties..

The very survival of the nation seemed at risk in the sixties.

Riots in Detroit, Newark and Los Angeles, scores of deaths, National Guard troops in the streets, massive ant-war demonstrations, civil rights marches, the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and, in September 1968 a two month racially toxic teachers strike.

Student sit-ins broke out at Queens College, Brooklyn College and Columbia protesting the absence of minority students. The New York State budget made drastic cuts in the CUNY budget, the president of City College and department heads announced their resignation, the CUNY chancellor announced the colleges would not accept an opening class in September. Students and community activists occupied City College to protest the overwhelmingly white student body; classes were suspended, the occupiers and the college commenced negotiations and at the end of May, 1969 announced a new policy: open admissions. (Read a contemporary account here).

Students would no longer have to pass rigorous entrance exams; graduates of high schools could gain admittance to the four-year city colleges.

Did Open Admissions open opportunity at the four year colleges to students of color or turn the colleges into remedial institutions filled with student without college level skills?

Almost a half century later Open Admissions is still an emotional topic.

I was at an art gallery out on the end of Long Island wearing my CCNY baseball cap. A gentleman pointed to the cap, “What year?” The topic immediately turned to, from the point of view of the gentleman, how Open Admissions ruined his beloved alma mater.

A recent book, “Changing the Odds: Open Admissions and the Life Chances of the Disadvantaged,” by David Lavin and David Hyllegard,

… examines the impact of what they call the most ambitious effort ever made to promote equality of opportunity in American higher education, the open-admissions experiment at the City University of New York (CUNY). From 1970 through 1976, the seventeen-campus, two hundred thousand student CUNY system guaranteed admission to all high school graduates. Test scores were not considered in the admissions process. All those with at least an 80 average in college preparatory courses or who ranked in the top half of their high school classes were deemed qualified for a four-year college. Everyone else was eligible for community college enrollment.

The initial results of the new policy were not surprising: the size of the CUNY freshman class grew by 75%, and the number of Black and Hispanic enrollees quadrupled at the system s four-year colleges.

I spoke with a CCNY graduate from the mid-seventies about Open Admissions, he laughed, “If wasn’t only for minority kids, I would never have gotten in, I’m a big fan.”

The Clarion, the newsletter of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the CUNY union, in a February 2018 article  argues,

The deleterious consequences of dismantling open admissions were brought to light in The Atlantic: “Since it went through an aggressive, system-wide overhaul that began in 2000, the City University of New York’s top five colleges – Baruch, Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens and City – have been raising admission standards and enrolling fewer freshmen from New York City high schools. Among the results has been the emergence of a progressively starker two-tier system: CUNY’s most prestigious colleges now increasingly favor Asian and white freshmen, while the system’s black and Latino students end up more and more in its overcrowded two-year community colleges.”

According to the 2010 census data the black plus Hispanic population in New
York City was 50% and the black plus Hispanic population at CCNY  (2017-18) is 57%.  The diversity numbers at the college mirror NYC numbers; however, how do we measure school success?

In a major research study, Raj Chetty and his team reviewed millions of data sets to analyze rates of social mobility: colleges moving students from the bottom 40 percent by income to the top 40 percent. Of the many hundreds of colleges examined the City College of New York, my beloved CCNY has the second highest student social mobility rate (Check out the research as parsed by the NY Times here) in the nation. Pretty impressive!!

Was Open Admissions a success or a failure? Was Open Admissions sabotaged through budget cuts and a lack of supports with the colleges?  Does the Chetty study tell us that in spite of budget cuts the CUNY colleges have been extraordinarily effective in carrying out their mission?

I attended the CCNY graduation last week, the salutatorian, a woman who arrived from China in 2008 without knowing a word of English graduating at the top of her class ten years later with a degree in bio-medical engineering.

After the November election democrats may be a majority in the Senate; however the democratic side of the aisle in the Senate has always been fractious. The last two democratic leaders were convicted of crimes and left in disgrace and the former Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) members, while in the democratic conference will vote as they please on controversial issues.

Next year is also the year that Mayoral Control has to be reauthorized in the legislature and Corey Johnson, the speaker of the Council and Mark Tryger, the chair of the City Council education committee have voiced dissatisfaction with the current shape of mayoral control in the city.

Our new chancellor, six weeks on the job, has been a spectator who has made a number of “feel good” speeches and a few, very few comments that he rapidly backed away from: can he become a major voice? While the “ink” has been all around the Specialized High Schools there are well over a hundred screened schools: will the mayor or the chancellor take any action to change test-score based enrollment policies at the screened schools, or, the zones of the schools that limit applications from students across the city? (See an excellent Chalkbeat article here ).

The leader of the teacher union, Michael Mulgrew, made an interesting proposal in regard to admission at screened schools that has not received any discussion, use the 16-66-16 Education Option guidelines for high school admissions. (66% of kids within one standard deviation of the mean, 16% above and 16% below).

We should work towards a solution that permits all high achieving kids, BTW, that term requires a more nuanced definition, to receive the education that is appropriate to their skills, ideally in an integrated setting. We can’t set kids against each other by race, ethnicity, language or gender.

Any ideas?

Is Education Reform Dying or Thriving in New York City?

A week ago Eliza Shapiro posted a lengthy, well-researched article in
Politico, “,How New York Stopped Being the Nation’s Education Reform Capital.”  My question: who are the reformers and who defines reform?

Shapiro tells us,

[Reformers] sought to make New York City — the nation’s largest school district — into the central urban laboratory for education reform. They hoped to overhaul how schools evaluate teachers, and to weaken the grip of the powerful teachers’ union by loosening tenure laws. If they could accomplish those foundational reforms — in a deep blue state, no less — then perhaps New York could serve as a beacon for similar efforts across the country.

In the last three years, education reformers have made little progress in transforming the city’s public schools. Efforts to change teacher evaluations and tenure here have sputtered and stalled. Dreams of political domination have receded as policy disappointments have multiplied.

The Bloomberg/Klein and policy think tank reforms have waned; however, perhaps less controversial and more impactful reforms are in progress.

“The rollback of education reform in New York has been the most dramatic in the country,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Interviews with three dozen current and former New York state and city education officials, charter school leaders, teachers’ union brass and education researchers revealed how inconsistent policies, poor implementation and shifting national politics compromised reform efforts here.

While the Duncan/Bloomberg/Klein reform efforts have fallen by the wayside reform has continued, a slower more consensus -driven reform.

Larry Cuban and David Tyack in “Tinkering Towards Utopia,” a must-read for anyone involved in education policy tracks education reform efforts over time and concludes that if reform is to become “sticky,” to actually change teaching and learning, the reforms must include teachers and parents.  The road to reform is littered with policies that have been rejected in the classrooms across the nation. The vast literature on personal and organizational change tells us, “participation reduces resistance” and “change is perceived as punishment.” The reforms of the last decade, imposed from above, were doomed, regardless of their value.

The first problem: was the system broken? The reformers worked under the assumption that the system was dysfunctional and all that came before them must be cast aside, or, to be more cynical, trashed the system to defend the sweeping changes they proposed.

I’m not going to defend all aspects of the New York City school system, dozens of high schools were dropout mills, too many teachers were provisionally certified because they couldn’t pass the required pre-service tests, the elected school boards in the poorest districts were rife with cronyism; however, the system was far from broken. A fascinating massive study of college graduates , released in January, 2017, is informative,

The most comprehensive study of college graduates yet conducted, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and financial-aid records. Published Wednesday, the study tracked students from nearly every college in the country (including those who failed to graduate), measuring their earnings years after they left campus.

At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.

Not only CCNY,

Three CUNY colleges are among the top 10 in the country in enrolling low-income students and graduating them into solid careers. Six more CUNY baccalaureate colleges are in the top 10 percent of the 918 U.S. colleges included in the study.

The CUNY students are almost all graduates of New York City public high schools. As a member of the board of the CCNY Alumni Association I am on the CCNY campus frequently, the student body is extremely diverse, and, impressive.

The so-called reformers, for the most part, did not come from within the system and were not traditional educators. They were lawyers, economists, Teach for America grads, who honestly believed they held the holy grail.

Sadly, they didn’t, and, the system continued swing from reform to reform.

In the late sixties David Rogers, a sociologist, wrote, “110 Livingston Street,”

This is a rigorous sociological examination of “”bureaucratic pathology within the school system.”” Rogers, who chooses New York City as a “”strategic case”” of a national sickness in public education, conducted this study for the Center for Urban Education. Here he presents a full history: unofficial blocking of desegregation, inefficiency, fragmentation of functions, failure.

The next reform, decentralization, created a fragmented school system, the middle class districts thrived, dedicated school board members, innovative programs, deep community involvement while the poorest districts were saw rapacious local leaders who fought for power and jobs, and, the local electeds who benefited from the system allowed the poorest kids in the poorest districts to suffer.

In my view the reforms of the Bloomberg years, with exceptions, were ill-conceived and harmful. For example, the creation of the Absent Teacher Reserve, at a cost of 150 million a year, was just senseless. Reformers were fixated on ridding the system of “bad teachers,” without any definition of “bad,” and succeeded in going to war with all teachers and many parents.

I an not going to recount and assess the reform policies, I am going to argue that reform is not dead, reform is now a process that has not garnered headlines but has moved the school system in a far better direction.

The Universal Pre kindergarten and the new “3K for All” are dramatic reforms that over the years will have an immense impact on improving outcomes.

Under the radar, the fifty or so transfer high schools, schools for “overage/under credited” students, about 2500 students citywide, serve students who would have been dropouts, the transfer schools graduate about half their students, while a 50% graduation rate is below the ESSA requirements the state, acknowledging the value of these schools has a separate metric for assessing the schools.

Under Bloomberg almost 3% of teachers received unsatisfactory ratings based solely on supervisory observations and about 40% of probationary teachers had their probation extended. Did this policy improve the quality of teaching? We have no idea. Under the current administration, working with Albany, teachers are now assessed by a complex combination of supervisory observations and measures of student learning, the system, referred to as the matrix, is supported by the union, in spite of some member discomfit.

Even further under the radar about 10% of all schools have chosen to participate in a UFT-Department of Education collaboration, using the acronym PROSE, (See detailed description here)

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.

Schools range from staggered teacher/student schedules to teacher peer assessment, all collaboratively agreed to by the school leadership and the school staff. For me, taking ownership of your practice is the most essential reform.

Bloomberg administration, with the support of the union reinvigorated Career and Technical high schools, formerly known as vocational high schools. A Manhattan Institute report, “New CTE: A New York City Laboratory in America,”

The March, 2016, points to substantial reforms, beginning with Bloomberg and continuing under the de Blasio mayoralty,

  • The number of New York City high schools dedicated exclusively to CTE has tripled since 2004 to almost 50; some 75 other schools maintain CTE programs; 40 percent of high school students take at least one CTE course, and nearly 10 percent attend a dedicated CTE school.

 City Journal, a Manhattan Institute publication, in June, 2017 continues to track the CTE movement in New York City,

Encouragingly, policymakers have begun to offer programs to train students for such good jobs—and the early results are promising. In 2008, a task force commissioned by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg recommended overhauling and expanding the city’s career and technical training. Among the suggestions that the city adopted was a push to instill in high school technical programs “a strong academic foundation in literacy and numeracy” to prepare for today’s job market. The city also reformed vocational schooling to include apprenticeships, intern programs, and other work-related learning, seeking to ensure that students who don’t go on to college have some kind of certification or path to further training. Based on the task-force recommendations, the city has opened 25 new career and technical schools since 2010 and added vocational training to many others. New York now runs 50 schools entirely dedicated to career education and another 75 career academies within larger general-education schools, serving some 26,000 students in New York City.

Reform is far from dead in New York City, the “new” reform has continued meritorious initiatives and curtailed the foolish and harmful initiatives. The striking difference is that the union, parents and electeds are not only on board they are an integral party of the reform process.

I know there are cynics, all progress is manipulated, the school system is “bad,” the only answers are returning to the “good old days,” or, trashing everything and enlarging “choice;” the parachuting experts from the ivory towers of think tanks and universities who have “all the answers.”  A friend of mine begins each professional development session with “the answers are in the room.”

New York City is bubbling over with thoughtful, effective schools and programs, most of which bubbled up from staffs, the International High Schools Network, fifteen schools that serve English Language Learners who are new arrivals, Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night High School, with highly flexible hours and total wraparound services, and on and on, the issue, how do we scale up success?  The International High School Network grew from one school to fifteen in the city and another fifteen or more across the nation.

With a mayor, a chancellor, a union president and a Board of Regents pretty much on the same page I am hopeful that progress will continue. Splashy reforms runoff into sewers, reforms that grow from classroom seeds embed and flower. City As School was one of the first alternative high schools;  I congratulated the founding principal; I thought the school  was a brilliant idea, he replied, “Speak to me two or three principals down the road, if you feel the same way I did my job.” Half a century later the school is still thriving. Good people, good ideas, hard work will create a better and better school system.