Tag Archives: Commissioner King

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

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

The new Board of Regents is a feisty group!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The discussion went on and on….

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

A little history:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a few questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Bullets Equal Duds: Why Do Top-Down Educational Initiatives Rarely Succeed? Will ESSA Change the Face of Education?

I asked an astronomer friend whether the Juno spacecraft would find life under the frozen oceans of Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, he answered,

The frozen ocean is essentially the surface, it’s thought that the watery mantle of Ganymede might be within the range tolerated by extremophiles, but again, a lot of speculation has been done. 

Much heat and little light, or, when Sagan was asked “yeah, but what are your gut feelings?” he replied “I don’t think with my gut.”

Science is a process of enforced intellectual rigor (enforced by peer review) which requires going from known data toward new understandings. We fill in the pages of a blank book with observations, measurements, and analysis, and then try to elucidate new models of how nature works. 

Going from the “already filled in book” to elicit behavior changes is the province of religion. 

Sadly, education policy-making is in the realm of faith, not science.

The reformers abjure “enforced intellectual rigor” and make sweeping decisions that impact millions of students based upon the absence of peer reviewed “observations, measurements and analysis.”

The current and former US Secretaries of Education support a portfolio system of schools – public and charter schools competing with each other for students – the competition, they argue, will raise student achievement in both public and charter schools. The belief is loosely based on the theories of Nobel Laureate economist Milton Freedman,

 In a famous 1955 essay, Friedman argued that there is no need for government to run schools. Instead, families could be provided with publicly financed vouchers for use at the K-12 educational institutions of their choice. Such a system, Friedman believed, would promote competition among schools vying to attract students, thus improving quality, driving down costs, and creating a more dynamic education system.

The current day reformers cannot point to any evidence and, in fact the current system of public and charter side-by-side schools has not “raised all boats,” they may actually diminish student achievement.

In New York City another example is the rekindling of the “Reading Wars,” Chancellor Farina is a close friend of Lucy Calkins and “balanced literacy, her approach to the teaching of reading. Most experts are sharply critical of the Calkins’ approach and support the use of phonics to teacher reading. Friendship rules: the chancellor supports her friend (Read a discussion of the “Reading Wars” here)

Will a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores sort the best and the worst teachers and lead to higher student achievement?  Once again, there is no evidence, and, in fact, scholars tell us that value-added measurement is highly inaccurate and inappropriate for measuring teacher competency.

To make the realm of policy creation and implementation even more depressing is  when schools and school districts attempt to use the “wisdom and knowledge of experts” the attempts fail.

Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, and Paul G. LeMahie in Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better, argue,

… there is no universal mechanism in education for transforming the wisdom and knowledge experts accumulate as they work into a broader professional knowledge base … well-intentioned educational reforms across the ideological spectrum were unsuccessful because they were formed around a novel solution (such as the small schools movement, etc.,) rather than a practitioner-driven problem and were imposed from above without attention to the ways local conditions might require adaptation.

To address these two challenges, the authors argue that practitioners, policy makers, and researchers should collaborate across traditional organizational boundaries to engage in ongoing disciplined inquiry.

(Read a detailed description of the book here)

The authors lay out what they call “The Six Core Principles of Improvement”

  1. Make the work problem-specific and user-centered.

It starts with a single question: “What specifically is the problem we are trying to solve?” It enlivens a co-development orientation: engage key participants early and often.


  1. Variation in performance is the core problem to address.

The critical issue is not what works, but rather what works, for whom and under what set of conditions. Aim to advance efficacy reliably at scale.


  1. See the system that produces the current outcomes.

It is hard to improve what you do not fully understand. Go and see how local conditions shape work processes. Make your hypotheses for change public and clear.


  1. We cannot improve at scale what we cannot measure.

Embed measures of key outcomes and processes to track if change is an improvement. We intervene in complex organizations. Anticipate unintended consequences and measure these too.


  1. Anchor practice improvement in disciplined inquiry.

Engage rapid cycles of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) to learn fast, fail fast, and improve quickly. That failures may occur is not the problem; that we fail to learn from them is.


  1. Accelerate improvements through networked communities.

Embrace the wisdom of crowds. We can accomplish more together than even the best of us can accomplish alone.

 In other words, there are no magic bullets. The “answer” is not the program; the answer is the competency and cooperation of the practitioners at the school, district and university level.

By competency I mean the ability to collaborate within and across schools, the ability to understand data and convert data into classroom practice, to become reflective practitioners. The New York City-based Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) encourages schools to break free of perceived or real constraints, to craft research-based solutions at schools with the guidance and support off labor and management.

The International Network supports twenty schools, fifteen in New York City, that work with English language learner high school students who have been in the country four years of less. The six year graduation rates match all other schools, the schools share instructional practices.

How do we seed fertile soils?  How do we prepare teachers and school leaders to use peer reviewed research to drive actual practice?  And, vitally important, how we create district leadership that supports schools and not constantly chase the magic grail, that magic bullet that has never existed.

There are highly successful schools, succeeding, frequently under the radar while schools with similar populations struggle.  Unfortunately the most successful principals, and occasionally superintendents must resort to practicing creative resistance, smiling, nodding, and continuing to do what actually works in spite of “higher ups” that chase that elusive secret sauce.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) devolves power from the feds to the states; states have until the spring of 2017 to create plans to address struggling schools: will states simply replicate the failed federal programs or actually create creative approaches to school improvement?

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.


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

Reforming the Board of Regents: Who Do the Regent Members Represent? Parents? the Public? the Legislators Who Elected Them? Or, Themselves?

The New York State Board of Regents, established by the legislature on May 1, 1784 is the oldest, continuous state education entity in the nation. The members represent each of the 13 judicial districts in the state and four members are at large. The members of the Regents select a Chancellor, in effect the chair of the board. The regents serve five year terms and are elected by a joint meeting of both houses, the 150-member Assembly and the 63-member Senate. There are many more Democrats than Republicans in the sum of the houses; in the real world of politics the democratic majority in the Assembly “elects” the regents. In recent years the Republican members of the Senate refused to attend the election session.

Unofficially the Democrats who represent a judicial district play a major role in the selection of the regent. As with all legislative items Sheldon Silver, the Speaker of the Assembly is the gatekeeper.

Incumbents are usually reappointed to a successor term, although last year Regent Jackson was not reappointed. The failure to appoint Jackson had nothing to do with his performance; it was a dispute among the members of the Assembly.

You would think that because of the nature of the selection process the selectees would be political, not so. The regents members have impeccable resumes: three former NYC superintendents, lawyers, a judge, a doctor, and college professors, all with roots in their communities.

The members are unsalaried and have no staff.

The regents meet for two days monthly (except August) in Albany, the May meeting is usually in another city in the state.

The regents select the Commissioner of Education who serves at the pleasure of the Board.

The full board meetings are webcast, the committee meetings are not.

The board work is done in a number of committees; the committee meetings are open to the public. The meetings usually begin after the initial full board meeting and take place one after another for the remainder of the day on Monday and continue Tuesday morning. A full board meeting usually takes place on Tuesday at the end of the succession of the committee meetings. Formal actions can only take place at the full board meetings. Changes to regulations, after approval by the committee are posted for public comment and come back to committees, reflecting the comments, and approved by the full board.

There is no opportunity for public comment at board or committee meetings, written formal public comment is the only “official” opportunity for input, although regent members receive hundreds of e-communications urging support or opposition for issues.

Agendas are set by the commissioner, probably with input from the chancellor.

The agenda and backup documents are extensive. The “Agenda and Materials” for the November meeting (see here ) are lengthy and extremely detailed.

The Monday full board meeting is informational, at the November meeting a new report, the Where Are They Now Report tracked students after they leave high school in New York State. After the meeting a number of superintendents were sharply critical of the accuracy of the report.

The full board meeting takes place in the ornate “Regents Room,” with portraits of former chancellors adorning the walls. The regent members and the commissioner sit at the table with the audience sitting around the room. At the succession of committee meeting, held in a larger room there are chairs for a hundred or so visitors, the K – 12 committee is usually full.

The “Charter Schools: Initial Applications and Charters Authorized by the Board of Regents.” item on the agenda is pro-forma, the state ed staffer gives a brief outline and the recommendations are approved, occasionally questions arise over the reauthorization of a charter, if the performance is lagging the school may be authorized for less than five years. The regent representing the area of the school usually comments and the item is approved. Wade Norwood, the Regent from Rochester was not present at the November meeting.

The regents approved a new Rochester charter, a few days later the media was filled with reports: the lead sponsor is a 22-year old with a fraudulent resume; he resigned from the charter board after the media reports.

Who is at fault? The SED staff? The Rochester Board member? Will the Regents re-examine the approval?

There have been too many issues in which the commissioner appears deaf to the public.

The regents are a policy Board, they set overall policy for the state and it is the role of the commissioner to implement the policy.

There is always a tension between the board and the commissioner. On the current board three members were superintendents (Regents Cashin, Rosa and Young), one Regent (Regent Tallon) was the majority leader of the Assembly, Regents Dawson and Bennett has served as regents for more than twenty years. The commissioner has far less experience on the ground, far less experience dealing with communities, unions and the complex political demands.

Controversial items may linger for meeting after meeting until the board members come to agreement or the issue fades away.

Regents Cashin and Rosa, both with decades of experience in leadership roles have challenged decisions; teacher evaluation, the test regimen, and the current edTPA exams. The major criticism has been the lack of evidence to support decisions and the failure to respond to criticisms from parents, teachers, principals and superintendents. While a few other regents are clearly uneasy with a number of issues they have generally gone along with decisions.

There will be two regents vacancies in this year, Regent Chapey resigned in July and Regent Phillips announced he will not be seeking another term and five incumbent regents will be seeking another term: Regent Tilles (Nassau-Suffolk), Cashin (Brooklyn), Young (at-large) and Regents Bennett and Dawson

Last spring, at the height of the criticism of the state testing fiasco a conscientious and knowledgeable legislator asked me, “Does this opposition to Common Core testing have a bill number?” Legislators were receiving hundreds of e-mails asking the legislators to intervene – intervene in what? The regents and the commissioner created a political minefield, a minefield that was a political issue beyond the ability of legislators to resolve.

Will legislators seek to elect new regents more likely to respond to the political needs of legislators? More responsive to parents and teachers? Will legislators seek to replace some of the incumbent regents? Once again, to select new regent members who are more open and sensitive to the political process? And, the larger question: who does a regents member represent?

Over the last few weeks Chancellor Tisch has supported increasing the cap on charter schools and threatened to close the 94 schools in the NYC School Renewal Plan.

Is the chancellor speaking for the regents? or, is she expressing her own opinion? Of course increasing or eliminating the charter cap is not a decision made by the regents; the cap is set in law.

Can the chancellor or the commissioner intervene and force the Renewal Schools to close? Well, according to Hank Greenberg, the regents-appointed Fiscal Monitor, in a devastating report on East Ramapo, tells us no matter how outrageous the actions of the school district, the commissioner has no power to intervene. To remedy the raping of the East Ramapo schools Greenberg recommends: diversity training??? If the commissioner does not have the authority intervene in East Ramapo will he intervene in New York City?

The sharp criticism of the regents raises serious questions:

* Who do the Regents represent?

The legislature that appointed them, the constituents in their judicial district, or, do they make decisions based on their own knowledge and experiences.

* Should the Regents become more transparent and interactive?

All meetings should be webcast, the public should have the opportunity to speak at Regent Meetings; the public speaks at town and city council meetings, at school board meetings, even at UFT Executive Board meetings any member can speak. The regents should hold public forums around the state to allow public input. Transparency is crucial for public institutions, especially with institutions that make decisions that impact the children of the state.

* Should the commissioner have the ability to remove or discipline school boards?

In my view, the commissioner should not have the authority to remove school boards without a process, perhaps an external body that can review reasons for removal.

* Should the current property-taxed based system of school finance continue? Or, should all school funding reflect a state-wide formula?

To allow the current system in which the richest districts spend double the per capita spending of the poorest district is disgraceful. The poorest districts, districts in rural communities are effectively bankrupt. The lack of a tax base should not doom students to an inferior education.

* Do we really need 700 school districts in New York State?

The Cuomo Education Commission made a number of recommendations; one was to consider the consolidation of the 700 school districts, a recommendation that did not have legs. Perhaps there are ways to consolidate services…. for example: should all legal services become the responsibility of regional state ed offices?

The Board of Regents should take a serious look their own functioning, the public has clearly lost confidence in the board, either the board reforms itself or the governor/legislature will make reforms. Trying to “manage” crises eventually leads to the public forcing reforms; rather than defending, organizations should remember: change can be a healthy process when it involves all stakeholders.

Defending the indefensible is always foolish and futile.

Thanksgiving in the Hood: A War on Poverty is More Productive Than a War on Principals, Teachers, Families and Kids.

Teacher in a suburban school: “I can’t wait until Tuesday, I need the Thanksgiving break.”

Ed: “Tuesday, isn’t your school open on Wednesday?”

Teacher: “Most of my kids took Wednesday off, families flying somewhere for the holiday, visiting relatives, and a few days in the Caribbean, the school board decided to close on Wednesday.”

At the other end of the economic spectrum, in an inner city school, Tuesday was a thrilling day; a principal had a contact with a clothing company who donated fifty winter jackets to the school.

“We had to construct a consent form for the parents so they didn’t think their child stole a coat, the kids looked stunned, one of the kids asked, ‘Is it Christmas?'”

The school was deep in the hood, the principal tells me all his caregivers receive some type of public assistance, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or food stamps, very few have intact families, usually a single female parent or grandmother or relative; its commonplace for a child to be shuttled from house to house. Some kids live in shelters, group homes or in the foster care system.

“We’re do lead the city in something,” the principal told me, “It’s homicides, plenty of my kids have someone in their family incarcerated, the only white people they know are cops, social workers and teachers, few have ever traveled very far from the projects.”

“For most of my kids the best meals of the day are school breakfast and school lunch, there are no supermarkets in the neighborhood, lots of Chinese take outs and fast food places, I thought about giving out turkeys until I realized that many apartments in the projects didn’t have working ovens.”

I told the principal about the school in the suburbs in which kids flew off for Thanksgiving. He replied, “I have to give the parent roundtrip metro cards to get them to come to School Leadership Team meetings – bus fare – five dollars is a lot of money for my parents.”

And the gangs, “All of my kids have some sort of gang connection, some are active members, others live in a Blood or a Crip building, gang membership is generational, kids belong to the same gangs their parents belonged to.”

Over the Bloomberg years the city created two categories of schools, “winners” and “losers” based on the geography of poverty and policies that separated the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

David Bloomfield, in Chalkbeat writes,

In his renewal plan for struggling schools, Mayor de Blasio has mistakenly fallen for a myth usually promoted by his conservative adversaries: that failure is the fault of individual schools, not the school system.

But the main reason the myth is attractive is because it is an easy way to avoid looking at systemic problems. Research demonstrates that the scale of New York’s “failing schools” is caused by district policies that lead to concentrations of highly mobile, low-achieving students. Too often, New York City has pre-determined “winners” in its school policies without admitting that other schools will lose in a trumped-up competition to cast the central administration in a positive light.

Inexorably, the city opened charter schools that attracted parents with greater social capital and concentrated poorer students in fewer and fewer schools; creating a downward spiral of low achieving schools.

Education Week, reporting on a study by the Center for NYC Affairs writes,

Poverty is not just a lack of money. It’s a shorthand for a host of other problems—scanty dinners and crumbling housing projects, chronic illnesses, and depressed or angry parents—that can interfere with a child’s ability to learn.

Researchers found that 18 factors in a student’s school and neighborhood strongly predicted his or her likelihood of chronic absenteeism and the student’s scores on New York’s accountability tests that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Taken together, these indicators create a measure of the “risk load” in each of the Big Apple’s elementary schools.

If you think about the community context, you would be able to better understand when students come into the school building, what they are carrying with them,” said Kim Nauer, the education research director of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, and an author of the study.

18 Risk Factors
The Center for New York City Affairs identified 18 school and neighborhood indicators that contribute to high risk in urban schools with high concentration of poverty. The indicators are intended to help administrators and policymakers find areas for improvement, such as high teacher turnover or student suspensions.

School Factors:
1. Students eligible for free lunch
2. Students known to be in temporary housing
3. Students eligible for welfare benefits from the city Human Resources Administration
4. Special education students
5. Black or Hispanic students
6. Principal turnover
7. Teacher turnover
8. Student turnover
9. Student suspensions
10. Safety score on the district’s Learning Environment Survey
11. Engagement score on the Learning Environment Survey

Neighborhood Factors:
12. Involvement with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services
13. Poverty rate according to the U.S. Census for the school’s attendance area
14. Adult education levels
15. Professional employment
16. Male unemployment
17. Presence of public housing in a school’s attendance area
18. Presence of a homeless shelter in a school’s attendance area

The New York study also recommends that Mayor Bill de Blasio work with all schools to analyze child-welfare agencies system-wide in light of the indicators. “I hope it will be helpful in making [school] principals aware of the questions they should be asking,” Ms.Nauer said. “The whole endgame here is to make school as positive as possible for the little guys and make sure they are not in a cycle of failure by the time they get to middle school.”

I am not implying that poverty is an excuse; poverty is a culture that impacts the lives of children and families. Schools cannot be expected to thrive when the community around the school is in chaos. Yes, we need the finest principals and the best teachers, professionals that commit to a career, not a few years before they flee to law school or roles in school policy creation. The state has created examinations to separate the wheat from the chaff, to set a higher standard for prospective teachers; the problem is we have no way of knowing if the exams will produce that result. We do know that prospective Afro-American and Hispanic teachers fail the exams at a considerably higher rate than white aspirants.

The results of a decade-old study are disturbing,

… we actually know very little about how differences between a teacher’s race and those of her students affect the learning environment. This study makes use of data from a randomized field trial conducted in Tennessee to produce higher-quality information on this controversial subject than has been available previously. The results are troubling. Black students learn more from black teachers and white students from white teachers, suggesting that the racial dynamics within classrooms may contribute to the persistent racial gap in student performance, at least in Tennessee.

(Read more about the study here and here).

At the same time our political and educational leaders ignore the disparity in education funding across the state, children in the highest wealth districts receive the highest per capita funding, New York State, disgracefully, leads the nation in the inequitable funding of schools.

Mayor de Blasio’s emphasis on Community Schools is a beginning, not a solution. Until the feds, the state and the city change verbiage to deeds schools will struggle. A beginning is jobs. A beginning is removing the moats that isolate the poorest of our neighbors. The lesson of Finland should not only be the quality of teachers, the lesson of Finland should be the absence of childhood poverty.

The rate of childhood poverty in our nation is pitiable,

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, turned up some alarming statistics about child poverty … the United States ranked 34th out of the 35 nations, beating out only Romania.

Governor Cuomo, sadly, fails to understand that blaming teachers, or tweaking the teacher evaluation plan will have no impact, aggressively leading a new “War on Poverty,” is the only path to severing generational poverty.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, an opportunity to reflect on the bounties of our nation, and an opportunity to sit down at the table with our family and be thankful. Yes, sadly, some of us can fly away to white sand beaches while others shiver in cold of the oncoming winter.

Instead of seeking solutions our leaders are obsessed with test scores, an obsession that is pathological.

The Campaign for Educational Equity report, “How Much Does It Cost? Providing Comprehensive Educational Opportunity to Low -Income Students,” provides a pathway for schools, I suggest the governor and the commissioner commit themselves to a comprehensive approach that acknowledges that spanking principals and teachers or threatening parents is futile, the governor appears to be changing our state motto from “Excelsior” to Dante’s description of the Inferno, “Abandon Hope All Yee Who Enter.”

Are the New Teacher Preparation Exams (edTPA) Racially Discriminatory? And, Why Has the State Failed to Listen to Experienced Educators?

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.
Immanuel Kant

From time to time I meet someone who attended the high school at which I taught, I always ask: “Who was your best teacher?”

They usually answer, “Mr. Greenman.”

Bob is a friend, a wonderful teacher and an author (“Words That Make a Difference“) At a book signing a few years ago the room was filled with former students, a few journalists, attorneys, doctors and yes, even a few teachers, all gathering to pay tribute to their former teacher.

How do we measure “great” teaching?

The State Education Department (SED) and the reformers who run education policy these days would say, “What was his Regents passing rate?” I’m sure Bob, and his hundreds of adoring students, have no idea, or care.

Over the past year SED and the Regents have jumped on the “a great teacher in every classroom” band wagon. We should have the best teachers we can find in classroom, and, BTW, the best doctors in hospitals, the best dentists and the best second baseman.

We probably had the “best teachers” in the 30’s and the 60’s. In the 30’s, the heart of the Depression, the old Board of Examiners created extremely challenging exams and with 16 million unemployed teaching drew the “best and brightest” to the civil service exams. During the 60’s the feds offered deferments from the draft for men who decided to teach in high poverty schools, better the trenches of the South Bronx than the trenches in Vietnam.

As our economy continues to recover from the 2008 economic meltdown, and employment continues to rise, guess what, the number of candidates entering teacher preparation programs will shrink, a constant negative drumbeat, an assault on teachers, attempts to diminish teacher benefits will only chase away prospective candidates; schools of education are beginning to see drops in enrollment.

Teaching has always had a high attrition rate – teaching is hard and for many not rewarding, for decades high poverty, inner city schools had revolving doors, teachers dropped by the wayside or moved on to higher achieving schools in better neighborhoods.

The road to certification varied from state to state, as did teacher quality. In New York State a Master’s Degree is required, in other states a Bachelor degree, in some states teachers commonly come from the lower half of their graduating class, in other states prospective teachers must pass a variety of exams.

The State Education Department has approved a seemingly endless line of college teacher education programs over the years.

There is general agreement that teacher education programs should meet a higher standard.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), issued a Report a year ago that recommended significantly increasing standards for teacher training institutions. The expectation is that as schools of education apply or reapply for CAEP accreditation they would have to meet the new and higher standards.

An example of a CAEP standard,

The provider sets admissions requirements, including CAEP minimum criteria or the state’s minimum criteria, whichever are higher, and gathers data to monitor applicants and the selected pool of candidates. The provider ensures that the average grade point average of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0, and the group average performance on nationally normed ability/achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE:

• is in the top 50 percent from 2016-2017;
• is in the top 40 percent of the distribution from 2018-2019; and
• is in the top 33 percent of the distribution by 2020.

The CAEP process would restrict the pool of prospective teachers by limiting the admission to education preparation programs over a number of years to students in the top third of the ACT/SAT/GRE exam pool.

New York State decided to move in a different direction. The State decided to ratchet up the exit rules from schools of education, and, to do it immediately.

For years candidate teachers had to be recommended by the teacher education program and pass two examinations – the passing rates on the exams was well above 90%. The SED decided to change the exam structure: they adopted a well-regarded exam from Stanford University, the edTPA, “The edTPA requires a lengthy electronic portfolio that includes written work and videos of candidates interacting with K-12 students,” while thirty states are in the process of adopting only NYS and Washington have adopted and NYS set a higher pass score.

In addition teacher candidates must pass two additional exams: the 135 minute computer-based Educating All Students (EAS) test (read description here) and the 210 minute, computer-based Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) (read description here).

The commissioner presented the Regents with proposed cut scores and the Regents members who were educators strongly objected, the scores were much too high, and suggested that the scores be phased in over five years. How could colleges be expected to alter their curriculum with no notice? How could students be expected to pass an exam which may not have been the subject of the courses they took? And, most importantly, is there evidence that the Pearson-created exams are “valid and reliable” predictors of teacher success? Are the exams actually “job-related”? Or, just an academic exercise?

Unfortunately experienced educator voice was ignored, the commissioner set high cut scores with no phase-in period.

Over the months the same pushback from the field occurred that occurred over the imposition of high cut scores for the Common Core student exams. With pressure from the State legislature the SED agreed to allow the old exams to be used for one additional year.

At the November Regents meeting the SED reported on year one results of the exams. (See Report here

Pass Rates:
edTPA the pass rate was 81%
EAS the pass rate was 77%
ALST the pass rate was 68%

On a protected site, not available on the NYSED site, the results by race:

The pass rate for White test takers on the EAS was 82%, Non-White test takers 74%
The pass rate for White test takers on the ALST was 74%, Non-White test takers 55%

It appears that the required EAS and ALST tests, pursuant to Duke and Chance are racially discriminatory test.

The new, untested, teacher certification tests are acting in direct opposition to one of the primary goals of the State and also the US Department of Education, Arne Duncan (See 5 minute U-Tube here) wants our teaching force to reflect the diversity of our schools.

The exams are not only reducing the diversity of our teaching force, the exams ignore standards set by prior court decisions.

In 1971 the Supreme Court, in Griggs v Duke Power Company ruled,

The facts of this case demonstrate the inadequacy of broad and general testing devices, as well as the infirmity of using diplomas or degrees as fixed measures of capability. History is filled with examples of men and women who rendered highly effective performance without the conventional badges of accomplishment in terms of certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Diplomas and tests are useful servants, but Congress has mandated the common sense proposition that they are not to become masters of reality

A year later in a New York City case, Chance v. Board of Examiner the appellate court sustained the opinion of the trial court. The Board of Examiner licensing exams which had been the sole path to a supervisory position in New York City were challenged due to wide disparities in passing rates between white and black/Hispanic test takers,

Judge Feinberg wrote in Chance v The Board of Examiners (1972),

[T]he examinations prepared and administered by the Board of Examiners for the licensing of supervisory personnel, such as Principals and Assistant Principals, have the de facto effect of discriminating significantly and substantially against Black and Puerto Rican applicants.

The judge further found:

Such a discriminatory impact is constitutionally suspect and places the burden on the Board to show that the examinations can be justified as necessary to obtain Principals, Assistant Principals and supervisors possessing the skills and qualifications required for successful performance of the duties of these positions. The Board has failed to meet this burden.

Although it has taken some steps towards securing content and predictive validity for the examinations and has been improving the examinations during the last two years, the Board has not in practice achieved the goals of constructing examination procedures that are truly job-related.

Even were we to accept the City’s allegation that any discrimination here resulted from thoughtlessness rather than a purposeful scheme, the City may not escape responsibility for placing its black citizens under a severe disadvantage which it cannot justify

The commissioner and the Regents could have phased in the exams and as well as tracking graduates – how did the performance of the graduate correlate with their exam scores? The current teacher evaluation tool is divided into three separate sections; the newly appointed teachers can be tracked in the three categories: How did principals “score” the teachers? How did the students of the newer teachers achieve on state tests? The key question: Are the tests “valid and reliable” indicators of teacher effectiveness?

The new CAEP standards are being phased in with the expectation that the standards will be in place by 2020, the State should have followed the CAEP route, and unfortunately they’re tone deaf.

The Common Core State Standards offered an opportunity to raise the bar for all children; the standards should have been created in the blaze of sunlight not in secret. The standards are not written in stone and should be subject to emendation at the state level, and, the tests, if necessary at all, should have been phased in over a lengthy period. When the State moved from a dual diploma to a single Regents diploma it took twelve years to phase out the old system and phase in the new.

Whether the Regents or the commissioner know it or not the current testing regimen is toxic to parents. Tens of thousands of parents will opt out in the new round of testing. The recent attempt to mandate field testing of the yet to be adopted PARCC tests is a slap in the face to parents. The opt-out movement is not restricted to New York State; it is a national movement. It is possible that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will remove the annual grades 3-8 testing requirement. New York State could move to sampling methodologies and obtain state student progress data.

I suspect the State legislature will begin to rewrite regulations adopted by the Regents. In the past the legislature has been reluctant to pass legislation that altered education policy. Not so since the last round of State tests.

As thousands of emails flood in-boxes of legislators and parents flock to legislative town halls policy making will move across Washington Avenue, from the regal columned headquarters of the State Education Department to the halls of the Assembly and the Senate.

The commissioner and most of the Regents can learn from Mark Twain,

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

Zombie Tests: Why Common Core Testing is Dead and Doesn’t Know It

A decade ago, with great fanfare, a bipartisan bill became law, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, renamed No Child Left Behind. The new law required testing of all children in grades 3 – 8 in English and Mathematics; the setting of goals called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), and the publication of the results disaggregated by subgroups. The goal of AYP was to encourage states to make incremental progress with all children reaching grade level by 2014.

Behind closed doors the AYP requirement was called the Lake Woebegone law – you will remember the community of Lake Woebegone where all children are above average.

The assumption was that long before 2014 the law would be reauthorized and the punitive sections rewritten. As the years passed the House and the Senate moved further and further apart, with the Republican victory in the 2010 midterms the hope of a reauthorization faded. The House and the Senate have bills that are strikingly different.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by the National Governors Association and the US Department of Education dangled $4.4 billion in competitive grants, called Race to the Top. Among the preconditions for winning the grant was adoption of the Common Core, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and the creation of a student testing regime based on the CCSS.

Two organizations emerged, coalitions of states, called Smarter Balance and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career); the coalitions, with federal and private dollars, created tests based on the Common Core. The PARCC website contains sample questions and the road to PARCC adoption.

Read a sample PARCC 4th Grade ELA questions: http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC_SampleItems_ELA-Literacy_Grade4Items_082113_Final.pdf

As the timeline approaches for states to move to PARCC testing more and states are having second thoughts.

Barbara Byrd Bennett, the CEO of Chicago schools has doubts about PARCC

“The purpose of standardized assessments is to inform instruction. At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents, and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment”

As the PARCC empire continues to crumble New York State, at least the commissioner, is rushing down the path to PARCC. At the November 17th Regents meeting the Regents considered making field testing of PARCC questions mandatory, urging school districts to use the Technology Bond dollars to purchase computer hardware for computerized state tests; the next step is asking the Regents to give a green light to move to PARCC testing.

An item will go for public comment to force school districts to offer PARCC field testing, a power the commissioner insists he has had since 1938.

Regent Cashin sharply questioned the commissioner, was he moving to PARCC testing, without a clear answer. The hordes of e-communication to Regents members resonated as Regents members were uneasy.

The Commissioner seems to ignore the tens of thousands of parents who are part of the opt-out movement, a movement that is spread like wildfire across the state and the nation.

The Long Island Opt-Out Facebook page has over 17,000 members, and growing every day.

Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Longislandoptout/permalink/377404222432922/

As the legislature returns in January the opt-out parents will move their activism to the halls of Albany; members of the Regents are increasingly discomforted.

With the Republicans in control of both house of Congress it is altogether likely that a bill will arrive on the president’s desk, a bill that might have some Democratic support.

The bill will move accountability measures from the US Department of Education to the states, and the states may have wide latitude.

Why is it necessary to have annual testing of each and every student, why not use sampling techniques similar to the techniques used by NAEP – called the gold standard for measuring the achievement of American students?

The Republican House bill also removed the requirement for teacher evaluation based on student test scores.

Hundreds of thousands of moms and dads across the nation are telling states to quit the burdensome testing regime.

Alfred Spector Vice President of Research at Google muses about the future of education. The world is changing at an incredible pace, tests to measure accumulated knowledge are meaningless, the new tests are adaptive tests, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new tests learn from you, as you answer they craft new questions that emanate from your answer. The tests learn from you and your learning, your education is individualized to you. Once upon a time we would scoff, we shouldn’t, the future is now. Spector argues that all education should be based on a simple equation CS + X (computer science plus X), computational thinking in all domains.

Listen to Spector: http://www.wnyc.org/story/empowering-next-generation-world-changing-ideators/

The only purpose of the current testing regime is to “measure” the effectiveness of the $55 billion New York State spends each year as well as to “measure” the effectiveness of individual teachers.

The governor loves to talk about turning New York State into a high tech center, creating high paying jobs in the new cyber industries and harasses educators and demeans parents, he is the troglodyte.

The governor should be leading our school system into the new age, not wasting time and money and resources testing kids in a meaningless exercise.

Vocational Ed (CTE) Requires the Same Skills as College Readiness: Jobs in the 21st Century are High-Skilled or “Do You Want Fries with That?”

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say,

“S/he’s not ‘college material,’ maybe they’d do well in a vocational ed program.”

Three or four decades ago that comment might make sense, after all semi-skilled union jobs were plentiful, High schools divided students into the regents track and the local diploma track: the Regents Competency Exam was a low skill test which was the path to graduation for most kids. As the world changed the union jobs moved off shore and the job-skills gap widened, the local diploma was a path to nowhere. The workplace consisted of jobs that required a college degree or high skills, or, minimum wage service industry jobs.

In the mid-nineties the members of the Board of Regents took a brave step – in the face of enormous criticism they began the process to phase out the local diploma and create a regents-only path to graduation. In the phase-in period the regents passing score was reduced from 65 to 55 and the plan was to increase the passing score to 65 one subject at a time – it took twelve years.

While the Regents were raising standards the commissioner was lowering standards – from 2006 to 2010 state tests scores increased precipitously. Newly selected Chancellor Tisch and newly hired Commissioner David Steiner blew the whistle – a new test was created and the scores dropped by 20 points.

The push-pull between the Regents and the Commissioner raising standards and local school officials finding ways to dance around the “rules” became commonplace. Kids who couldn’t pass courses were allowed to complete an online course that might take a few hours, the six-hour/two day English Regents exam was reduced to one day and the passing rate soared, on numerous occasions regents exams were scaled to increase passing rates.

The Regents and the Commissioner want to increase standards, produce kids who are more capable of entering the more demanding workforce and local superintendents fearing drops in test scores and graduation rates could jeopardize their jobs, advocate ways to get around or change the rules

Unfortunately the illusion that kids with academic difficulties will thrive in a vocational education setting continues. (Vocational Education, aka “Voc Ed,” is now referred to as “Career and Technical Education,” aka as CTE). In fact, one could argue that college is the default for kids who can’t make it in a CTE program. The current high school diploma requires students to pass 44 credits and five regents exams – for a diploma with CTE endorsement – an additional 10-12 credits in a specific CTE area.

There are three types of CTE programs:

The BOCES Model:

The student attends his or her regular district high school and takes the CTE courses at a regional BOCES site – the district pays the BOCES a set amount for each student. This is the “standard model” outside of New York City. In these trying financial times low wealth districts do not want to incur additional costs and the CTE option is frequently not encouraged.

The Stand-Alone Model:

Scattered around the state we can find CTE schools – unfortunately the thirty or so CTE high schools in New York City have been reduced sharply as school after school was closed for poor performance. The department did open a school for the construction trades a few years ago, and, a few of the new small high schools claim CTE status (one for film making, another for media and advertising), the total number of CTE seats, both in New York City and around the state have declined sharply, primarily due to the cost of the creation and maintenance of the CTE programs.

The Strand Model:

Large high school might have a CTE strand in the school, for example Park West High School, a 2000 plus seat comprehensive high school had a 60-student elevator repair program in the school. As the large high schools closed the strands disappeared.

Both New York City and the state make it extremely difficult to begin a CTE strand within a school. A few years ago I worked with a few small schools exploring the possibility – the city appeared clueless and the state rigid. A principal related to me he wanted to start an engineering strand in his school – he spoke with state ed – since his proposed course of study included physics and calculus the state told the principal those courses were not appropriate for an engineering CTE strand. Yes, I am just as baffled.

The state is making every effort to ease the path for CTE students – a few months ago the regulations were changed to allow for “integrated credits,” perhaps combining an engineering class and a math class and the kid would receive dual credits.

The Chancellor just announced a proposal referred to as 4 + 1, instead of the five required regents exams a student could take four regents exams and, if I understand the proposal, substitute a CTE certification for the fifth regents. (See Chalkbeat article here).

With proper safeguards “Multiple Pathways to Graduation” makes sense – in addition the state should explore increasing the portfolio option – especially for categories of student Students With Disabilities.

The Commissioner constantly references “college and career ready,” and the state defines “college ready” as grades of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the Algebra 1 Regents – how does the state define “career ready”?

It doesn’t.

David T. Conley is the recognized expert, writes,

In 2005, Professor David T. Conley of the University of Oregon published a groundbreaking book: College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready. At the time, plenty of people were talking about the importance of getting more low-income and minority students through high school and college. The tech boom and global competition increased the demand for more highly skilled workers, and scholars also noticed that adults in the lowest-income neighborhoods had not benefited significantly from the Clinton-era jobs boom. Any effort to improve the lives of the next generation would require an improved high school degree and higher-quality college or training.

Conley’s book offered an important new perspective: kids needed to be prepared academically (e.g., have solid writing, math and analytical skills), socially (e.g., able to manage their time and hold their own in a competitive class) and culturally (e.g., able to resist outside attractions or demands and willing to study for long hours),

Success in college could offer a leap in economic status for many students. Even if students weren’t interested in college, he noted, college preparatory skills and habits were important for landing a good, living-wage job out of high school.

At a presentation to the members of the Board of Regents two students made presentations – they were in a CTE Welding program – welding (???) – Why are we teaching kids a nineteenth century skill?

I was speaking to the president of a construction trades union – he was skilled in the same trade as his father and grandfather – he lamented that his son would not follow in his footsteps. He explained that building materials were pre-cut and pre-drilled to exact standards by robotic machines in factories overseas and building was now more like a giant Lego set – with many fewer employees, and fewer union jobs.

According to Governor Cuomo the future of upstate New York are high tech companies – are we graduating kids with the skills to be employed in these high tech companies?

The answer is a resounding, No!

The math skills necessary for a high tech company? Algebra 2

The students we’re are targeting as potential employees are having trouble passing Algebra 1.

Career and Technical Education is not for an “escape” for kids who are struggling in academic classes.

Are we teaching “coding” in elementary schools?

How many computer science certified teachers are we producing? None – because the certification area does not exist.

How many colleges have elementary school teacher preparation programs with mathematics concentrations?

Do our current curricula emphasize “analytical skills”?

Are the Common Core tests encouraging teachers to teach “College and Career Readiness” skills or does test prep engulf all?

The 4 + 1 proposal, if it isn’t used as a ploy to get around regents exams, is benign, more important, is the state both encouraging and assisting schools and school districts to establish relevant CTE programs, not acting as a gatekeeper and discouraging moving into the 21st century.

Kids entering kindergarten today will graduate college, if college is still relevant, and find categories of jobs that have not yet been created.

Remember Moore’s Law?(http://computer.howstuffworks.com/moores-law.htm)

What the First Grade Says About the Rest of Your Life, and How We Change Destiny

Teachers are flooding back to school today: a new contract, a new chancellor, no new school closings, and no ill-conceived new ideas, and, yes, there are grades aside from pre-kindergarten, the one very high profile new initiative.

For the first time in a dozen years we have a mayor and a chancellor who understand the “tale of two cities,” many families in New York City as well as around the state who live in poverty while others bask in luxury.

In the press release that accompanied the release of the state test scores Commissioner King wrote,

“Although there is some correlation between 2014 math and ELA performance and poverty, there are many examples of schools outperforming demographically similar peer schools.”

(See http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/pressRelease/20140814/home.html for a list of higher achieving schools and higher growth schools at both higher and lower levels of wealth.)

A quick scan shows us that many of the low wealth/higher achieving schools are screened schools, i.e., principals choose their students. It would make much sense to use “zip code by poverty” than Title 1 eligibility.

There is no question that occasionally a high poverty school “beats the odds,” and, the Education Trust has written extensively about the qualities of these schools (“Yes We Can: Dispelling Myths About Race and Education in America, September 2006″).

If we analyze how the “beat the odds” schools differ from other high poverty schools:

School Leadership: There are endless college programs that grant school leadership certificates – unfortunately the candidates are not exemplary – even the highly touted New York City Leadership Academy does not uniformly produce highly successful principals. School leadership determines school quality and the evidence of the qualities of highly effective school leaders is still elusive. Nature or nurture? Are highly effective principals the result of excellent training programs or inherent qualities? A leadership gene? Growing up in a household that fostered qualities that lead to the qualities of effective leadership?

Teaching-learning synergy: We measure the quality of the teacher and we measure student outcomes, it is still difficult to understand why some teachers are simply more successful than other teachers. The Gates Measures of Effective Teaching Study videotaped thousands of lessons without identifying that “certain something” that could be replicated classroom to classroom.

Reflective teaching: Teachers who regularly ask themselves, from lesson to lesson, from day to day, what was effective, what was not, how can I change the elements of my lesson to make them more effective? Mike Schmoker calls these “checks for understanding,” teachers who do not wait for kids to change, teachers who realize that teaching impacts learning and, unchanged teaching practice that do not change outcomes must be altered.

The union and the contract as partners, not obstacles: In an increasing number of schools the school leadership includes the UFT chapter leader; in some the school leader and the union leadership are at odds. In some schools union chapters use the contract clauses to allow for flexibility in others the contract is used to prevent school leadership initiatives.

True collegiality and collaboration: .Some principals are actually instructional leaders, they lead professional development, they teach demonstration lessons and they have earned the respect of the staff and the student body; however, too few principals possess the skills to actually lead.

With all of these elements the progress may not reflect in dramatically higher test scores. The progress may be measured in fewer suspensions, better attendance and less lateness, more students doing homework, more students engaged in lessons, moving from high level one to low level two is progress.

Yes, there are outliers, there are a few schools with that special combination of school leadership and staff, a combination that is exceptionally difficult to replicate, a combination that may make progress, progress that may not result in a majority of students on level three or higher.

For too many kids in spite of the yeoman efforts of school leaders and teachers geography is destiny.

The Washington Post reports on the end of a twenty-five year study

For 25 years, the authors of The Long Shadow tracked the life progress of a group of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children … The authors’ fine-grained analysis confirms that the children who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods, had stronger families, and attended better schools tended to maintain a higher economic status later in life. Combining original interviews with Baltimore families, teachers, and other community members with the empirical data gathered from the authors’ groundbreaking research, The Long Shadow unravels the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations to reveal a startling and much-needed examination of who succeeds and why.

The Russell Sage Foundation writes,

“We like to think that education is an equalizer — that through it, children may receive the tools to become entrepreneurs when their parents were unemployed, lawyers when their single moms had 10th-grade educations. But [the researchers] kept coming back to one data point: the 4 percent of disadvantaged children who earned college degrees by age 28 … education did not appear to provide a dependable path to stable jobs and good incomes for the worst off.

The story is different for children from upper-income families, who supplement classroom learning with homework help, museum trips and college expectations. [the researchers] found one exception: Low-income white boys attained some of the lowest levels of education. But they earned the highest incomes among the urban disadvantaged.”

Let me repeat: only 4% of the disadvantaged children earned college degrees by the age of 28 – among the “urban disadvantaged” white males earned the highest incomes.

Race and class, not education, was the determinant as far as stable jobs and good income are concerned.

We have a mayor, a chancellor and some members of the Regents who understand that education, teaching and learning, cannot be separated from the realities of day to day life. The governor and the legislature and mayors have to work to lessen the “tale of two cities,” the electeds must create jobs and affordable housing and health care.

How about equalizing the district to district disparity in funding? How about encouraging policies that integrate instead of segregating schools? How about understanding that the teacher evaluation process (APPR) is fatally flawed? And, how about creating a testing system that is useful to parents and teachers instead of responding to federal mandates?

Perhaps in a school year without the acrimony of the last decade we can begin to both acknowledge the need for working on the economic inequities and creating more effective schools.

Cuomo at the Helm: Wheeling and Dealing to Mollify Parents and Teachers and Positioning Himself for the Gubernatorial (and Presidential?) Runs.

Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Over the last few days the key players shuttled from meeting to meeting, phone calls, strategy sessions, and different groups with different goals.

For the governor planning his gubernatorial run, and, just if, a run for the presidency.

Supporting charter schools deprives his opponent, probably Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, of funds from the deep-pocketed hedge funders. Not supporting the Dream Act and supporting the Compassionate Care Act (medical marijuana) is part of a strategy to carve out a space separate and apart from other possible 2016 contenders and assure a November 2014 overwhelming majority.

Commissioner John King and most of the Board of Regents blithely moved ahead with the full and speedy implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Common Core tests. Parent anger over the widespread student failures on the state tests never abated, the anger grew and grew.

The governor and legislature needed an answer – how could they assuage the parent anger?

As part of the budget negotiators crafted a compromise,

ALBANY >> As New York students began taking English language arts assessments on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parents and students should be relieved knowing that the second round of Common Core-aligned test scores will not be included on students’ permanent transcripts under the new budget deal.

“Parents can now exhale, students can now exhale, the test scores don’t count,” Cuomo said during a ceremonial signing of the budget.

Students began the three-day testing Tuesday and were to continue through Thursday.

Under the budget passed Monday night, scores on Common Core-aligned tests for students from third to eighth grade will remain off their transcripts through 2018 and school districts will be prevented from using the scores as the sole way for determining student placement. (http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20140401/ny-budget-delays-putting-common-core-test-scores-on-students-records)

The commissioner insisted that the feds required an annual test for students in grades 3-8, and steadfastly refused to postpone the offering of the test. The last minute 37-page resolution delayed the impact of the tests; however, parents were not mollified.

Don’t tell the kids: would they try if they knew “the test scores don’t count”?

The decision to emasculate the exams did not impact teachers – the scores may not count for student but according to the governor they would count for teachers, or would they?

The morning after the legislature passed the weighty budget the governor tossed a fillip to teachers.

The Daily News reports,

“We have to deal with the issue of the effect of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations,” Cuomo said. “If you say Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers evaluation and what should be done. That is an issue that we have not addressed and we need to address before the end of the session, in my opinion.”

Arne Duncan must be apoplectic, instead of his buddy Commissioner King pushing ahead with the full implementation of year 2 of the Common Core tests New York State is taking a pass – pushing the impact of the tests to after 2018. The Secretary can challenge the Governor – threaten to withhold federal dollars – shake the federal stick at big, bad New York State. Or, just move on down the road and ignore the folks in the Empire State; of course, to ignore New York State may encourage other states to sidle around the federal regs and threats.

The next step is to craft a solution for teachers, “if … Common Core testing was premature for students … what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers evaluation … we need to address before the end of the school year.”

Cuomo is in the process of deftly marginalizing his opponent and making himself more acceptable to parents and teachers.

Power brokers craft solutions, oftentimes pragmatic solutions that serve the needs of the interests of the seats at the table.

Back in the summer of 1787 fifty-four white, male, mostly rich power brokers spent a summer in Philadelphia at a secret meeting – today we call it the Constitutional Convention. Madison, Hamilton and their co-conspirators made deals – they knew slavery was immoral and also knew that to insist on ending slavery was a fatal stumbling block to a deal. (See Lawrence Goldstone, Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution (2005) and Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001).

Arne Duncan and Andrew Cuomo are not Madison and Hamilton. Duncan bullied and bribed and cajoled states to adopt his personal agenda – Cuomo, the pragmatist, is simply moving chess pieces, and positioning him in upcoming elections.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956), Women As Outlaws