Tag Archives: David Kirkland

“Defund the Police,” and, “Defund the Billionaires,” Create a Job-Friendly, Equitable Economy for All

In the early 2000’s I was at the New School University listening to Reverend Floyd Flake, senior pastor at the 23,000 member Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral. Reverend Flake served as a member of Congress (1987-97) and is a strong supporter of charter schools.

Flake was critical of public schools, the level of education was sub par, staffs don’t live in the communities and were not engaged with the community. I asked Floyd if he agreed that the police were not engaged with the community, didn’t live in the community and oftentimes unfairly targeted members of the community: he nodded in agreement.  I asked whether Floyd agreed that in addition to charter schools we should have “charter” police departments.

Flake demurred, and his handlers hustled him out of the meeting.

Maybe I was prescient?

In middle class and white communities the police were looked upon as crime fighters protecting the community from the evil doers, in communities of color: feared. In the 1920’s and 30’s crime was rampant; the 18th Amendment, “… the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors … is … prohibited” was widely ignored, Murder Incorporated . operated with impunity, the police both ignored or were complicit.

In communities of color the police have been the foot soldiers of local and state governments since the Civil War. Jim Crow laws abrogated the 13th/14th and 15th amendments, slavery was replaced by peonage and the Supreme Court legitimatized the abrogation of constitutional guarantees.

Between 1882 and 1968 almost 3500 Afro-Americans were lynched,

Today African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states.

“For white Americans of every ideological stripe—from radical southern racists to northern progressives—African American criminality became one of the most widely accepted bases for justifying prejudicial thinking, discriminatory treatment, and/or acceptance of racial violence as an instrument of public safety.”

”White southerners were hysterical over the threat of ‘social equality’ or what they took to mean the apocalyptic possibility of black men ‘ravishing’ white women and passing on their ‘degenerate’ traits to a “pure” white race”
― Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

Black people have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of the population.

For many “Defund the Police” is demanding a type of policing that no longer demeans, abuses and kills people of color.

David Kirkland, the Director of the NYU Metro Center, in an eloquent essay rejects our current “toxic system” and urges the replacement by “community protectors.”

To transform toxic systems—systems that devour Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies, systems that cannibalize communities, systems such as policing that gorge on not only public dollars but also the spines of the very people they are supposed to protect and serve—to transform these systems, you have to starve them. Similarly, if you want to understand what “defund the police” means, you have to understand what funding the police has meant, particularly for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous (BLI) peoples.

 Currently, our progress is shackled by a system too reliant upon police to do things for us that police cannot, should not, and were not designed to do. We need to defund the police so that we can hire and train our own community protectors—a cadre of care workers more apt to service our human needs, to help eliminate the kinds of conditions responsible for acts of desperation that are, indeed, threats against our public safety. We need investments in systems not bent on jailing us, but designed to liberate us through jobs, education, and other social programs that directly empower people. Investing in human freedom as opposed to human bondage is the best use of public funds. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier (and cheaper) to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

 On the other end of the spectrum, far, far on the other side of the spectrum Heather McDonald, in the City Journal sees the Defund the Police movement as the erosion of our society, the “breakdown of civilized life,”

 [George Floyd’s murder] has now spurred an outpouring of contempt against the pillars of law and order that has no precedent in American history. Every day, another mainstream institution—from McDonald’s to Harvard—denounces the police, claiming without evidence that law enforcement is a threat to black lives.

These are no longer the warning signs of a possible breakdown of civilized life. That breakdown is upon us. If local and national leaders are unable to summon the will to defend our most basic institutions from false and inflammatory charges of racism, they have forfeited their right to govern. Unless new leaders come forth who understand their duty to maintain the rule of law, the country will not pull back from disaster.

What McDonald fails to understand is our nation is moving towards a “majority/minority nation; the white, male power structure is inexcerably being replaced by the population tides and Afro-American voters are using the power of the ballot box to express themselves.

Defund the police must be accompanied by, as Kirkland writes,

… investments in systems not bent on jailing us, but designed to liberate us through jobs, education, and other social programs that directly empower people. Investing in human freedom as opposed to human bondage is the best use of public funds

 A recent NY Times editorial makes the case, unless people have jobs, unless we attack economic inequality the “power elites” will continue enrich themselves, call it what you will, “historic and continuing racism” is the primary reason for high crime rates in communities of poverty. The police are the foot soldiers; “fighting crime” equates to incarcerating the victims of policies that takes from the many and gives to the few.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood that a sustainable improvement in the quality of most American lives required an overhaul of the institutions of government.

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America,” Roosevelt said in 1936. “What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”

Americans especially need to confront the fact that minorities are disproportionately the victims of economic inequality — the people most often denied the dignity of a decent wage. That inequity is the result of historic and continuing racism, and it should be addressed with the same sense of fierce urgency that has motivated the wave of protests against overt displays of racism

 We need an “overhaul of the institutions of government,” a living wage for all Americans will drive our economy; if we continue to “rob from the poor and give to the rich” our economy will crumble. There is no “invisible hand” protecting our economy, recessions and depressions are man-made disasters.  Maybe Andrew Yang is correct and we need a Universal Basic Income ($1,00 a month for all Americans), I know there is a ticking clock, a time when demonstrations and protests will grow and grow and a time when we will tip into the yawning abyss of an economic Depression, or worse.

Rhiannon Giddens, in a haunting song, “At the Purchaser’s Option,” reminds us of the cruelty of human bondage


When elephants fight, it is the [New Yorkers] that suffer, [amended African Proverb]

States, counties and cities are facing catastrophic budget shortfalls; unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression and uncertainty over the re-opening of businesses and schools.  Each day as expenditures exceed revenues the deficits widen,

While the state budget was approved on April 1, under his emergency powers the governor can adjust the budget, in other words the budget is malleable; depending on revenues the budget can be adjusted after the July 1st.

A bill, the HEROES Act passed the House, it provides over $1 trillion for a wide range of supports.

Will the HEROES Act  pass the Senate? And, if so, how will the Senate change the House bill?

The current House bill would be a life-saver for New York City as well as cities across the state (See proposed $$ to each city here). Speculation is that the final bill will not come before the Senate until late June and will look considerably different than the bill that passed in the House.  The final bill has to “satisfy” Senate leader McConnell, the Republicans and the President.

In a normal year the Mayor and the City Council Speaker would be deep in discussions over the final budget. New York City, since the sweeping governance changes in the late eighties, is a “Strong Mayor,” system. The Mayor has wide discretion over the allocation of resources, the Council, aside from approving the budget; its powers are limited to land use and the holding of hearings.  (Read a fascinating account of New York City governance and the emergence of the current configuration here).

Corey Johnson, the leader of the Council is a candidate for mayor.  Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, is also running for mayor, as well as the Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Boro President and who knows who else …. Andrew Yang? The ranked-choice primary will be held in June, 2021.

Taking “shots” at a weakened term-limited mayor is de rigueur in the world of politics.

Stringer calls for a $1B cut in the NYPD over four years by attrition and using the funds for community programs (Read presser here).

Meanwhile the Independent Budget Office (IBO) paints a bleak picture of New York City’s economy over the next few years,

The coronavirus pandemic has put New York City in the worst economic crunch in decades, with 22% of residents currently out of work and City Hall mired in a nearly $9 billion budget gap.  

 The state government in Albany is facing an even more dire fiscal situation than the city. Rather than providing assistance to the city, the state has looked to the city for fiscal relief. The state budget adopted last month includes hundreds of millions of dollars of cost shifts from the state to the city, including a direct raid on the city’s sales tax revenues. In short, New York City is facing nearly unprecedented challenges as it struggles to maintain budget balance, protect vital services, and provide a safe and healthy environment for individuals who want to live, work, or visit here

After the police clashed with demonstrators and widespread looting occurred the governor threatened to remove the mayor. Can the governor remove the mayor?

(See the text of the City Charter and State law below)

 “What happened in New York City was inexcusable,” Cuomo said during his Tuesday press conference, unprompted. “I have offered the National Guard; the mayor has said he can handle it with the NYPD. My option is to displace the mayor of New York City and bring in the National Guard as the governor in a state of emergency and basically take over … the mayor’s job. You’d have to displace the mayor.”

One would hope and expect that electeds: the governor, the mayor and the candidates will work together to restore the city, to make the city into a better place. We are in a moment in time when sweeping change is possible. Change is inevitable, and change can be disruptive, not all change make education better.

Teachers simply want to back to their classrooms in a safe environment, and we have yet to define safe.

I suspect some of the elements of remote teaching, can be incorporated, adding remote parent conferences to in-school conferences, one on one remote learning to reinforce in-school learning, remote conferences in lieu of out of school meetings, etc., and probably more.

If, however, the decision-makers, continue to bicker, to try and use the crisis for political advantage schools can slide into an abyss.

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

Dante Alighieri


Its Friday; gray and rainy, listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Leaving Eden,” a poignant song in troubling times, one of my favorites.



The Removal of a Mayor in New York State

“The mayor may be removed from office by the governor upon charges and after service upon him of a copy of the charges and an opportunity to be heard in his defense. Pending the preparation and disposition of charges, the governor may suspend the mayor for a period not exceeding thirty days.”  (NYC Charter)

“The chief executive officer of every city and the chief or commissioner of police, commissioner or director of public safety or other chief executive officer of the police force by whatever title he may be designated, of every city may be removed by the governor after giving to such officer a copy of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard in his defense.  The power of removal provided for in this subdivision shall be deemed to be in addition to the power of removal provided for in any other law.  The provisions of this subdivision shall apply notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of any general, special or local law, ordinance or city charter.” (NYS Law)



Its Friday; gray and rainy, listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Leaving Eden,” a poignant song in troubling times, one of my favorites.



Stumbling Towards a Post-Racial World: We Have a Long, Long Path Ahead

The stain of slavery and Jim Crow appeared to be erased with election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Many commentators, both conservative and liberal, have celebrated the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, claiming the election signified America has truly become a “post-racial” society. It is not just Lou Dobbs who argues the United States in the “21st century …is a post-racial society.” This view is consistent with beliefs the majority of White Americans have held for well over a decade: that African Americans have achieved, or will soon achieve, racial equality in the United States despite substantial evidence to the contrary.

 America was looking forward to a new emergence of Camelot. Younger voters flocked to the poles in unheard of numbers; a wave of progressive voters revived and seemed to presage the end of the Republican Party and a new era of progressive legislation waiting to become law.

A black president would influence generations of young children to embrace a new vision of American citizenship. The “Obama Coalition” of African American, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American voters had helped usher in an era in which institutional racism and pervasive inequality would fade as Americans embraced the nation’s multicultural promise.

While the two terms of Obama may not have lived up to expectations, and while the Republican Party didn’t fade away we seemed to have moved past endless decades of racism and repression.

We brushed away the increasing number of vile racist comments and threats and failed to comprehend that the election was only the first step of a long, long road

Claude Steele … argued that the crippling academic achievement gap between Black and White Americans can be closed if the nation has the sufficient will to end the decades-old practice of imposing negative stereotypes on Black children.

Eight years later Obama’s farewell address was a list of achievements; an upbeat view of the future and a realization that we were far from a post-racial society.

There’s a … threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

 Three years into the Trump presidency much of the Obama achievements have been ripped away or hanging on frayed strings. The future of our democracy is threatened from within and we fear we are edging towards wars abroad.

Beneath suits and dresses of too many Americans we see the cloaks of the Klan.  Attempts to address inequities that were once collective actions across the political spectrum are now bitterly attacked.

In New York City attempts to address the inequities of the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT); the results of the SHSAT test in the spring of 2018: only nine offers of admittance to Black students out of over 900 offers. The Hecht-Callandra Law (1971) contains an alternative admittance pathway,

The special schools shall be permitted to maintain a Discovery Program to give disadvantaged students of demonstrated high potential an opportunity to try the special high school program without in any manner interfering with the academic level of those schools.

The Bloomberg-Klein (2002-2014) mayoral administration abandoned the implementation of the Discovery Program; attempts to replace the law failed.

A report from the Center for NYC Affairs examines the impact of the new admissions standards proposed in the de Blasio bill, a bill that has not moved forward in the legislature.

The School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), a blue ribbon mayoral panel, issued two reports, one supporting the integration of schools and a just-released report to end the Gifted and Talented programs created, once again, by the Bloomberg-Klein administration. G & T programs begin testing for admissions  at age four and the overwhelming number of classes placed in middle class schools.

David Kirkland, the Director of the NYU Metro Center, is a member of SDAG, and, a highly respected, award winning scholar, wrote an op ed in the New York Daily News defending his recommendation to end the G & T programs,

Though cloaked in language that attempts to make the focus on race less obvious, it boils down to a defense of systems that have unfairly and disproportionately benefited whites for generations.

 In the world of Twitter Kirkland was subjected to personal attacks,

David E. Kirkland


Sep 20

When you challenge the system and those who benefit from it, both the system and the privileged resist. Perhaps, I’ll analyze the discourse of those who are resisting me. This analysis will makes a point; however, I’m more interested in conversation and a commitment to our kids.

David E. Kirkland


Sep 20

I wrote a piece about how racism motivates resistance to change in education. All of today, I’ve been inundated with people calling me names and distorting my argument, attempting to pit me against Asians. This is how I know that the perspective is right–it’s challenging people.

The debate around school integration and the elimination of G & T programs has dominated the news cycle; and, unfortunately the “debate,” fueled by the NY Post, is nasty and nibbles at the edge of racism.

In our democracy challenging the status quo is at the core of our political system. Change is inevitable, incremental and is constantly seeking pathways.

Integration plans were designed by the local school boards, the Community Education Councils; the best decisions are made by those closest to children and classrooms.

I believe the recommendation to wipe away all G & T programs is the wrong pathway. The aeries of power rarely bring about embedded change. The decision by the John King, the former commissioner of education rammed through the adoption of Common Core State Standards and Common Core state testing and, an unintended consequence, created the opt-out movement. Virtually no one is a fan of the tests; they are required by federal law and have not raised student achievement.

I believe that G & T programs should be a decision made at the local level. School districts should have the authority to keep or abandon the programs as well as the ability to set admissions standards. Yes, awkward, the programs would vary across the city, and, most importantly, districts would have ownership.

Only through dialogue, through continuing dialogue, through challenging and uncomfortable debate can we identify pathways to eradicating the burdens of centuries of oppresson.

Kirkland keeps stirring the pot, encouraging us to think about questions of race and inequity.

When students do not come packaged the “right” way, too often our systems decide we cannot teach them. Instead of adapting to them, our systems label them, suggesting that something is wrong with vulnerable students. They label them as lazy, unfocused, misguided. In a sense, they blame their families, their genders, their socioeconomic circumstances, or anything else about vulnerable youth that deviates from the ideal. Our systems fail to see them, and thus our systems fail them.

There is clear evidence that this inability to see some students drives educational outcome disparities. The problem is not necessarily the unseen but our assumptions about what we see. Seeing is not neutral.

Will Mandatory Anti-Bias Training Eliminate or Increase Implicit Bias’?

It was the first session of a graduate education class; I introduced myself and asked an icebreaker question: “Take a few minutes and write your philosophy of education,” everybody busily scribbled away except Muhammad, who was Afro-American, an adult convert to Islam and had been a biochemist at a major company. I called on Mohammad first: “All white people are racist, what matters is their ability to deal with their racism.”  I switched my plans and asked the students to respond to Mohammad. Some were outraged, “How can you call me a racist? You’ve never even met me,” Another student, “I grappling with this question, I’m a white guy from the suburbs, and how can I relate to students of color?”

It was an interesting term.

Race was the subtext of many conversations.

If kids are not connected to a lesson how do you know it and how do you respond?   A major theme was if you want to change outcomes you have to change inputs, you have to be able to adjust your teaching to the needs of the kids if you want to change the behaviors of the kids. You have to get beyond preconceived notions, bias.

If you assign easier texts, assign below grade level work, is that an appropriate response or is that an implicit bias?

Should you assign “culturally relevant” texts or texts that resonate with the kids? Or, both?

I asked a few high school teachers what texts the kids like best; one told me “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Tennessee Williams?  She said yes, the kids loved reading about really, really dysfunctional white people. Another teacher taught Robert W Service poems “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, which he described as “white hip-hop,” and asked the kids to write their own hip-hop in the same meter.

Another teacher averred, “I’m a good teacher; the kids simply don’t care.” The teacher was Nigerian.

Race and ethnicity are complicated.

While the New York City school system may be 40% Latinx; the kids come from many Spanish speaking nations with very different cultures. Teachers from the Caribbean are culturally very different from kids they teach from Brooklyn.

The decision to require that over the next few years all teachers will participate in Implicit Bias or perhaps called Anti-Bias Training makes a key assumption: that the training will reduce bias, however you define the term, and improve outcomes for students.

Chalkbeat, the education news website interviewed teachers, the results were mixed.

  • , New York City teachers have had divergent responses to anti-bias training.Most of the 70 or so teachers and staff who responded to a Chalkbeat survey say they found the five-hour training useful. A teacher at a school in the South Bronx said it was helpful to have group discussions about data showing how students of color have been “over-policed” compared to white students. But others raised concerns. Another administrator thought the session had only succeeded in creating “resentment” and would cause her to “second guess every decision I make.”

The New York Post interviewed teachers who sharply criticized the training, finding it insulting, and for a few, anti-Semitic.

A core question: does anti-bias training actually reduce bias?

A recent article in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science  “Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Message,” warns,

 “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” [The author] continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

]The author]stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

The New York Post article led to an op ed sharply critical of the chancellor and a lengthy response   from Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and at NYU, Kirkland wrote,

When institutions such as schools, that wield powerful influence over the lives of children, are not anti-biased, they are unequivocally dangerous. Thus, we recognize the need for educators to (1) become aware of the manifestations of racism and privilege in our own lives, in the systems we create and support, and in our cultures, (2) work together in community to dismantle and reorganize the systems that support racism and privilege, (3) actively support each other and our families to acknowledge, honor, and appreciate differences, and (4)  incorporate anti-bias education at every level of American education.

 David’s predecessor at the Center, Pedro Noguera has doubts,

Pedro Noguera‏ @PedroANoguera 5h5 hours ago

Many were surprised when I expressed skepticism about the value of anti-bias training. I do believe racial bias is real and pervasive. I don’t believe you can be trained out of it unless you are open to unlearning it. To me, addressing structural inequities is far more important.

If you want to check out the training itself the website describes the training, which compressed a six month course into a five hour training.

We all have inherent bias,’ some we’re aware of and struggle to overcome, some are subconscious, and some we just live with.

Police officers shoot innocent Afro-Americans who they see as threatening, Afro-Americans may see Jews as “good with money,” and on and on. As teachers we have to acknowledge bias, on our part and on the part of the children we teach and their parents.

We have to move beyond, we have to deal with students one by one, and we have to seek out the trigger, seek out that path that leads the student to maximize their talents and beyond.

Staffs that include a wide range of races and ethnicities allow us to learn from each other and encourage us to use each other to maximize our collective talents, and, to move beyond our bias.’

The Power of Culture: The the Specialized High Schools Admittance Test (SHSAT) Roots are Embedded Deeply in the Past

We visit our favorite Dim Sum restaurant every few weeks and the maitre’d knows we’re teachers. She asked us, “My kids go to Chinese language classes after school every day and all day tutoring for the specialized high schools on Saturday, do you know of a tutoring class after church on Sunday?” You might say: a classic Tiger Mom, yes; however, far more typical among Chinese parents.

An examination system has been at the core of Chinese culture for more than a millennium.

 In China, a system of competitive examinations for recruiting officials that linked state and society and dominated education from the Song dynasty (960–1279) onward, though its roots date to the imperial university established in the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). Candidates faced fierce competition in a series of exams dealing primarily with Confucian texts and conducted on the prefectural, provincial, and national levels. Despite a persistent tendency to emphasize rote learning over original thinking and form over substance, the exams managed to produce an elite grounded in a common body of teachings


 The civil service examination system, a method of recruiting civil officials based on merit rather than family or political connections, played an especially central role in Chinese social and intellectual life from 650 to 1905. Passing the rigorous exams, which were based on classical literature and philosophy, conferred a highly sought-after status, and a rich literati culture in imperial China ensued.

Today the exam system is still at the heart and core of Chinese culture, it is the pathway to a prosperous life.

The Chinese examination, the gaokao is widely considered to be the most important exam which can make or break a young person’s future. It is intended to help level the playing field between the country’s rich and poor … [it is] the academic qualifying test for almost all high school gradates hoping to receive an undergraduate education.

 … their scores in large part determine their future – whether they can go to university, which institutions they will be admitted and consequently what careers await them.

Candidates must perform well in the gaokao to gain admission to the better universities, where graduation guarantees a bright future with status, wealth and even power.

For most Chinese, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, a high score in the gaokao is their only means to significantly alter their fate.

 When electeds or elites or progressives or civil rights advocates tell Chinese families that an examination system, a thousand years old, will no longer be a path to a prosperous life, you can anticipate opposition, vigorous opposition.

In fact, our nation has a long history of antipathy towards Chinese. From the beginnings of Chinese immigration in the mid-nineteenth barriers were erected to immigration, for example the Chinese Exclusion Acts, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that these barriers were lifted; we needed China as an ally. The Chinese laborers who built the transcontinental railroad were virtual slaves, and thousands died and lie in nameless graves.

Chinese are now the largest immigrant group coming to New York City each year. Of the 3.1 million foreign born New Yorkers 10% are Chinese (only Dominicans are a larger group).There are nine “Chinatowns” scattered throughout the city and for the last few years Chinese new immigrants led the list of new arrivals.

The SHSAT fight has mobilized the Chinese community; they have become a political force.

The examination system is embedded in the Chinese psyche, the national culture, and a plan to deprive Chinese students of perceived pathways to prosperity is viewed as Sinophobia.

Chinese aren’t the only supporters of the examination.

Back in my union representative days I worked with a high school with mostly Caribbean students and many Caribbean teachers. The school rep called, a crisis, she was concerned about her state certification. I checked the website, no problems she had passed all the required exams.

Yes, she passed all the required exams, she was dissatisfied with her scores; they were too low, it was embarrassing  and she wanted to take the exams again: she was Jamaican.

The Caribbean population in New York City has been quite successful economically. Many professionals and have moved through the civil service system, teachers, transit authority, nurses, medical technicians, others are small business owners; and, they have been both active and successful in politics. From the City Council to the Albany legislature there are many with Caribbean roots.

And, there are excellent high achieving high schools with students with Caribbean backgrounds.

Medgar Evers High School and  Bedford Prep High School are high achieving screened schools with many students with Caribbean heritage.

At an Assembly hearing on Friday over the SHSAT Jumaane Williams, the newly elected Public Advocate, a specialized high school graduate (Brooklyn Tech), with Jamaican roots clashed with Assemblymember Charles Barron, an Afro-American with Black Panther roots  – it was hot and heavy.

While Williams and Barron agree on a wide range of progressive issues they disagree, rather vehemently on the SHSAT question. Barron argues the test is racist, Williams defends the test and advocates for more gifted schools.

David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Equity and the Transformation of Schools at NYU and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are friends and on the same side of most social justice issues, not the SHSAT

David E. Kirkland‏ @davidekirkland May 13

I supported @JumaaneWilliams from jump. He’s smart and has a righteous commitment to justice. While I support the brother, I couldn’t disagree with him more on the issue of specialized high schools but hold out hope that he (and others) will reconsider their positions on #SHSAT

I doubt Jumaane will change his mind.

The SHSAT inequities have been allowed to fester for years and blame can be attributed to mayors and chancellors; the challenge is how to work within cultures and not require that deeply held cultural beliefs be abandoned.

Report from the NYS Board of Regents Meeting (1/14-15/2019) [High School Grads as Substitutes and Punishing OptOut Schools]

I have been attending the monthly NYS Board of Regents meetings for a decade, and, I tweet as fast as my fingers can tap @edintheapple.

The meetings begin in the ornate Regents Room, the walls lined with portraits of former chancellors, with one exception (Merryl Tisch), white men, mostly with facial hair. The Board of Regents has a long history, back into the late eighteenth century. Under current law the Board is made up of seventeen members, one from each of the thirteen judicial districts and four at-large. The Regents are “elected” by combined meeting of the legislature, effectively, by the democratic majority of the Assembly. The Regents serve a five year term and the position is unsalaried.

The initial meeting is live streamed and archived (Watch 1/14/19 meeting here), the committee meetings follow throughout the day. The meetings are a full day Monday and a half day Tuesday. The committee meetings are not live streamed.

The meeting always begins with the chancellor asking a board member to offer comments, a “moment of reflection,” the audience stands, I suspect in the distant past it was a prayer: quant.

The audience, state education department staff, lobbyists, representatives of education organizations (unions, school boards, etc.), and me. There is no opportunity for public comment, although during the breaks between meetings board members and audience members chat.

The meeting began with a presentation on a major new state initiative, this month, culturally relevant education, rebranded as Cultural Responsiveness and Sustainability Frameworks, see the PowerPoint here. David Kirkland, the director of the New York University Metro Center is the lead author, David and a number of superintendents and other organization leads spoke and supported the Frameworks. As is the practice the Frameworks go to public comments and back to the board for adoption.

Another resolution was added to the agenda in response to the DeVos withdrawal of the Obama letter on student discipline and suspensions. The resolution was read to the room, a strongly worded rebuke to the DeVos policy. (Read the full resolution here)

…be it hereby resolved that the Board of Regents reaffirms its commitment to continuing its efforts to ensure that all students have equitable access to learning opportunities in safe and supportive school environments free from discrimination, harassment and bias, including reducing dependence on exclusionary school discipline and increasing equity in education for all students.

 The board moved to the committee meetings, the first was K-12, among the items on the agenda was a change in the regulations dealing with the qualifications for substitute teachers. There are a small number of districts that can’t find substitutes for absent teachers, we’re talking about districts with 3-5 schools. The controversial section is below: yes, the commissioner is proposing that the requirement be reduced to a high school diploma.

To address the Board’s concerns, the Department is proposing to require uncertified substitute teachers to hold at least an associate’s degree or its equivalent to ensure that they have a minimum educational background. However, if no eligible substitute teacher with an associate’s degree or higher, or its equivalent, is available after a good faith recruitment effort has been conducted, the school district may request from the district superintendent (for districts that are a component district of a BOCES and BOCES) or the superintendent (for school districts that are not a component district of a BOCES) a waiver allowing them to employ an individual with a high school diploma, or its equivalent.

 The members were outraged and member after member rejected the proposal, after attempts to wordsmith the regulation it was removed from the agenda. I wanted to raise my hand and make other suggestions: a district substitute teacher reserve, meaning hiring an additional teacher, or two, or whatever is necessary, on a permanent basis to serve as a sub, or, use district office staff on a rotating basis, or, perhaps, try paying daily substitutes more money.

Next, an issue that has been bubbling for a week boiled over; the state will be releasing school accountability data in a few days; and, NYS has, by far, the largest OptOut numbers among all states, about 20% and over 50% on Long Island. (BTW, a very small number in NYC concentrated in a few high achieving schools).

SED provided districts with a 62-slide PowerPoint used to identify “failing” schools and a dense alghorhym. Regent Johnson, a former superintendent, attended the meeting in her judicial district and was outraged, she asked,

 “Will OptOut schools be punished?  Will  schools be designated as failing schools due to OptOuts?”‘

She demanded of the commissioner, “Yes or No?” The commissioner sidestepped.

The board was not happy.

If you want to get into the weeds, read a detailed explanation of the accountability metrics here,

The bottom line: OptOuts within subgroups resulted in lowering the achievement metrics pushing schools into the “failing school” (targeted or comprehensive school improvement) categories. The alghorhym used by the state to determine schools has been/ discredited by Bruce Baker, a frequent writer on education finance issues

On Tuesday morning I attended the Assembly Education Committee meeting under the new chair, Michael Benedetto, a retired career teacher. The first order of business of the legislative session was to pass, unanimously, all democrats and republicans supported, the teacher evaluation bill that returns the question of teacher evaluation to school districts. Read full test of the bill and accompanying memo here. The bill will move to the full Assembly and I expect similar speedy actions in the Senate.

Legislators are more than happy to return the thorny question of teacher evaluation to local districts, and, will be perturbed by the commissioner’s decision to “punish” OptOut schools when they were assured that opting out would have no negative consequences for schools.

When hordes of phone calls begin pouring in to legislator offices legislators will seek answers and this issue can become increasingly troublesome for the commissioner.

Hope this has been helpful. All questions and/or comments, of course, welcome.

The Elephant in the Room: Will the deBlasio/Carranza School Integration Initiatives Result in White Flight?

Do you have friends of another race? Do you know their spouse and childrens’ names? Have you visited their home and have they visited your home?

Have we entered a post racial world? Is the concept of post-racialism a mirage?

With the election of Barack Obama commentators across the nation announced we were entering a post racial world,

Many commentators, both conservative and liberal, have celebrated the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, claiming the election signified America has truly become a “post-racial” society … This view is consistent with beliefs the majority of White Americans [and] this view is consistent with opinions found in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and elsewhere

Ten days before leaving office Obama gave an upbeat speech; however, rejecting the post-racial trope,  .

There’s a … threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

 The last two years have shown us that the ugliness of racism has been seething below the surface, and our president has allowed these feeling to percolate and spread across the nation.

We are far, far away from post racialism, if that term has any meaning at all.

As the cold war faded a social scientist predicted, “The End of History.” (1989) and prophesized a new emerging world,

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

 With the emergence of fascist-leaning governments in Poland and Hungary, with the Russian annexation of Crimea, rising ultra nationalist movements in Sweden and Germany, Fukuyama responded,

 “Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward … And I think they clearly can.”

 Are the current plans to integrate middle schools viable plans to move school integration forward? Or, are we still rooted in a racially-conflicted world?

A little history:

 In the 1950’s the migration of Afro-American families to Northern cities accelerated, one of the results: what has come to be known as “white flight,” white families left traditional white neighborhoods and moved to the suburbs creating racially segregated inner city communities. As the flight continued city after city became majority minority cities.  One of the outcomes in addition to segregated neighborhoods was segregated schools. White families who remained often opted to move their kids to parochial and private schools.

Over the last twenty years a reverse migration, the movement of white families back to cities, called gentrification has moved lower income families of color into smaller and smaller areas of the city and created hyper-segregated schools. Today only 15% of the 1.1 million students in New York City schools are white.

In 2014, one of the most progressive cities in the nation was shocked as the UCLA Civil Rights Project report was released,

A report released today by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project finds that public school students in New York continue to be severely segregated. Public school students in the state are increasingly isolated by race and class as the proportion of minority and poor students continues to grow, according to the CRP report, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future.”

The City responded by issuing a School Diversity Policy Statement  that included establishing a 50-member blue ribbon advisory task force on School Integration and Equity whose report is due in December.

Districts on the Lower East Side (1), the Upper West Side (3) and Brownstone Brooklyn (15) spent months meeting and eventually created plans that were approved by the chancellor.

The  100-plus page District 15 Diversity Plan Executive Summary,

  • Remove all screens. (These screens include: lateness, attendance, student behavior, admissions exams/tests, standardized test scores, report card grades, & auditions. Maintain the current system of school choice
  • Create an admissions priority for students who qualify as low-income, are English Language Learners (ELLs) and/or are Students in Temporary Housing for 52% of all seats at all District 15 middle schools.

The District 3 Middle School Integration Plan is similar,

Under the plan approved in District 3, students who are poor, struggle on state tests, and earn low report card grades will be given admissions priority for a quarter of seats at the district’s middle schools. Of those seats, 10 percent would go to students who struggle the most, and 15 percent would go to the next-neediest group.

David Kirkland, the Director of the NYU Metro Center explains why a transformation to integrated schools is essential,

The research suggests, over and again, that people who are exposed to differences are more open-minded and more tolerant. They’re more compassionate. They think more complexly. They’re capable of working out difficult problems.

Forget college and career readiness. Here we have civic readiness, the ability to participate in a multicultural democracy with people who are different than you are, in ways that inspire not tension but community and collaboration.

What this is, is an idea of democracy of access, democracy of opportunity. If my friends’ parents are doctors, the dream of becoming a doctor becomes tangible. It becomes far more legible, as opposed to when I live in communities where nobody gets to be a doctor, or nobody gets to be a lawyer, or judge. The seedling of that imagination becomes within reach.

 The Mayor, the Chancellor, the teachers union, scholars, progressive parents, editorial boards (perhaps with the exception of the NY Post) are hailing the plans and urging the city to move forward at a quicker pace.

The elephant in the room: will white parents accept/welcome the integration plans, or, seek other segregated by race and/or perceived ability options?

The plans have not been universally accepted, white parents have asked: Will the high academic standards (whatever that means) be maintained? Will classes be homogeneous by test scores or heterogeneous? and, we don’t know how the almost all white staffs will respond?

There have been highly successful integration plans in the past, I blogged about a district-created New York City plan last month.

Families are beginning to apply for placements and the districts will inform families of their placements in the spring.

Will the families, white and black, collaborate to make the plans work for all children?

James Madison High School was integrated in the early sixties and considered a successfully integrated high school. In December, 1973 “racial incidents” broke out, and, Fran Schumer, a recent graduate from Madison (and one of my students) wrote an article for the Harvard Crimson, “Prisoners of Class ,”

IN A QUIET, residential area of Brooklyn, N.Y., a crowd of angry white teen-agers surrounded the main doors of James Madison High School chanting “We want the Niggers, we want the Niggers.” Armed with sticks, rocks and fragments of glass, they waited for the black students in the school to leave the building. The police, who were called to the school earlier that morning when fist fights between black and white students erupted in the halls, forced the crowd to move on down the block so that the black students could leave the building safely. After the white crowd moved out of sight, the black students quickly headed for the local trains on which they would make the one-and-one-half hour trip homeward …

 It is possible that people at James Madison High School will never know the pieces add up to their own victimization. As long as the prisoners of class and the prisoners of race must make self-destructive choices, they will continue to fight each other for the breadcrumbs. But after all, they choose to act this way and this kind of free choice is as American as apple pie, Watts, Hough, Bedford-Stuyvesant and in a few years, Flatbush.

Integrating a school is more than moving chips on a chess board; too often the “integrated” school becomes a microcosm of the outside world, segregation within the “integrated” school.

How far have we moved since the “racial incidents” at a “successfully” integrated high school almost fifty years ago?  BTW, it took a decade, Madison reclaimed it’s prestige in the community and today is a thriving fully integrated high achieving high school.

Will school districts participate in #black lives matter in schools?  Will teachers, parent and students of all races work together to create inclusive schools and inclusive communities?

As I write my twitter feed buzzes with reports of a “multiple casualties” shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the rabid Trump supporter bombing suspect. Trump rallies that appear to be re-creations of Leni Riefenstahl’s, “Triumph of Will” rally in 1934 Germany.  Diane Ravitch expresses her frustration in a blog post (“Hatred Breeds Hatred), I totally agree with Diane and hope that New Yorkers can set a model for the nation.

“Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?” School Integration/Segregation and School Improvement Policy

“We conclude that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” —Chief Justice Earl Warren

In 1954 the Earl Warren Supreme Court unanimously reversed the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision, states could no longer, by statute, segregate public schools.

 In the late fifties and into the sixties increasing numbers of Afro-American children entered the New York City school system.  David Rogers, 110 Livingston Street: Politics and Bureaucracy in the New York City School System, 1968, chronicles the hesitant and conflicted efforts of the Board of Education: increasing political pressures to promote integration and vigorous community resistance characterized by the Parents and Taxpayers (PAT) organizations. Under the Lindsay mayoralty (1965-1973) the push to school integration waned and moved to support for school decentralization, empowering locally elected school boards with wide powers over hiring, curriculum and budget. Lindsay, a progressive Republican, chose not to antagonize his white voter base and appeal to liberal and black voters.

 The Board of Education, at the high school level, successfully created and implemented integration efforts; and a number of school districts created integration plans within their districts (District 15, 22) while others (District 3) supported pockets of white schools within a primarily Afro-American district.

 For three decades following Lindsay the school wars were over the power of school boards, not school integration: accusations of corruption, suspending school boards in the poorest and most politicized districts, battles over jobs and political influence.

 Mayoral control under Mayor Bloomberg ended local control and placed decision-making back into the hands of a central authority. The Bloomberg administration closed and created hundreds of schools. Over two hundred of the newly created schools were “screened” schools, schools with entrance criteria, usually scores on state tests. To a large degree the screened schools have larger percentages of White/Asian students and lower percentages of Black/Hispanic students, having an impact of further segregating the remaining schools.

Sixty years after Brown v Board of Education the UCLA Diversity Project released a report sharply critical of New York City,

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

 In this report, we provide a synthesis of over 60 years of research showing that school integration is still a goal worth pursuing. From the benefits of greater academic achievement, future earnings, and even better health outcomes for minority students, and the social benefits resulting from intergroup contact for all students – like the possible reduction in prejudice and greater interracial communication skills – we found that “real integration” is indeed an invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies. Can separate be equal, yes. If measured by test scores, a few resegregated schools show high performance. But even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.

According to 2017 New York State data, the New York City schools are 14.6% White, 27.2% Black, 40.6% Hispanic and 15.6% Asian, if we subtract out Staten Island the citywide White school population declines to 11.8%.

The minority school population is heavily concentrated in a number of districts, District 23 (Brownsville: 75.6% Black, 21% Hispanic, 1% White) District 19 (East New York: 46% Black, 43% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 2% White), other districts have a wider range of races/ethnicities within the district (District 2 Mid-Manhattan: 24.2% White, 23% Asian, 37% Hispanic, 15.9% Black) while the highest achieving schools within the district, for example two of the high achieving middle schools, (IS 104: 28.2% White, 39.8% Asian, 20.9% Hispanic, 8.1% Black and IS 167: 41.9% White, 18.6% Hispanic 27.2% Asian, 8.3% Black) in no way reflect the district numbers.

Attempts to change school zoning lines, one of the few powers delegated to Community Education Councils (CEC), the local school boards, have created contentious battles. PS 191 and 199 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (District 3) are a few blocks apart, one school almost totally white and other school almost totally minority. For months the “white” school battled against any changes that would move white students into the minority school (Read NY Times article here)

Slowly, in the face of mounting pressures from advocates, research organizations and the City Council, the mayor and the department  began to support “controlled choice ,” and, in June, 2017 released a widely criticized plan.

The plan impacts only a handful of schools and creates a task force that will make non-binding recommendations in 2018.

The loudest advocates on the City Council are Brad Lander and Richie Torres; the black council members have not been vocal on the issue. The traditional Afro-American organizations have also not aggressively supported school integration.

Absent from the discussions is what happens within newly integrated schools: what happens when small numbers of children of color are introduced into white classrooms, a parent muses,

“Just as it can be intimidating to be the only white child in a class, it can also be intimidating to be the only child of color in a class,” she said. “If this is going to work, both sides have to really think hard about how to make everybody feel welcome.”

 A larger question: what are the academic data in the most and least diverse schools? David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center at NYC explores that very question in a recently released report,

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

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent); less economically advantaged students in particular seemed to benefit from attending the most diverse high schools. By contrast, White, Asian, and more economically advantaged students were much more likely to graduate in four years in the City’s least diverse schools than their peers.

 “White and Asian students seem to benefit incongruently from segregated schooling, which means that school segregation may give some students an unfair and seemingly unhealthy advantage – thus, sanctioning uneven opportunities for success,” said Kirkland.

“The academic achievement and high school graduation evidence that we analyzed suggests that increasing diversity can increase equity in New York City schools and significantly decrease gaps in some student outcomes such as high school graduation,” Kirkland concluded. “Thus, plans to stimulate diversity in New York City schools can pay off for the City’s most vulnerable students.”

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

Two years ago at a Medgar Evers College symposium, “Improving Education Outcomes for Young Men of Color,” a high school student asked, “Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?”

The comment of the student has resonated in my mind, yes, school integration, societal integration, should be a goal. The dramatic rise in interracial marriages would indicate the without any externally imposed policies integration is occurring,

In 2015, 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried

Race does not define class. There are middle class households that are black and Hispanic, their neighborhood schools are black and Hispanic and parents have no interest in busing their children to white schools.

Gentrification has converted traditional inner city neighborhoods to middle and upper class primarily white neighborhoods further concentrating high poverty families in fewer and fewer neighborhoods.

The goal of the UCLA Report is to encourage, “real integration” which the avers is a “invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies”

 What we don’t know:

Who are the minority children in integrated schools? Do they live in segregated neighborhoods or in integrated neighborhoods? Is their family income equivalent to the incomes of the white families in the schools? Are the classrooms also integrated or are they in segregated classrooms for high needs children? Why have the minority parents chosen to move their children into primarily white schools?

And, a core question: are efforts to integrate schools diverting attention from improving the poorest and least academically effective schools?

For decades the city supported decentralization as a remedy for low achievement in high poverty, high minority schools, without any positive impact, in fact, a negative impact.

The #blacklivesmatter movement, a new generation of black scholars (Ta Nisi Coates, David Kirkland, Edward Fergus, Ibram Kendi), racially conscious black comedians (Dave Chappelle) and rappers – race is widely discussed across the nation, and, I believe, a positive element in our society. The discussion about improving schools must continue, Decentralization was a tragic distraction, I believe school choice is another distraction, and while school integration is a worthy goal we cannot ignore our most dire educational quandary – improving outcomes for our poorest children: regardless of race.

The Suspension Conundrum: Do Suspensions Improve Behavior and Academic Outcomes for All Students or, a Pipeline to Dropping Out and Prison?

A few weeks after the election of de Blasio in 2013 I dropped by the transition tent to listen to a panel of community activists talk education. The panel trashed the Department of Education over excessive numbers of student suspensions, for the panelists, evidence that the “school to prison pipeline” was alive and well.

(Read here, here  and here).

The data is clear, students who are suspended in the 4th grade are likely not to graduate high school and the more frequent the suspensions the more likely the student will enter the criminal justice system.

As a reaction school districts have sharply curtailed the numbers of suspensions, especially in urban school systems.

Twenty-seven states have revised their laws to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, and more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms. From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the number of suspensions nationwide fell by nearly 20%.

Is there a downside to reducing suspensions?

Advocates of discipline reform claim that a suspension may have negative effects on the student being disciplined. Critics are concerned that lax discipline may lead to more disruptive behavior, disrupting classrooms and harming students who want to learn.

A just-released report from the Manhattan Institute (“School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public School, 2012 – 2016 “) takes a deep dive into the suspension and school climate data.

The report concludes,

[School discipline] deteriorated rapidly under de Blasio’s. Specifically, teachers report [note: using school survey data] less order and discipline, and students report less mutual respect among their peers, as well as more violence, drug and alcohol use, and gang activity. There was also a significant differential racial impact: nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst shift in school climate under the de Blasio reform.

Supporters of the regulations limiting suspensions argue that new approaches, restorative justice and, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports  are in the beginning phases of implementation, it will take a number of years to train school staffs and assess the effectiveness.

What is missing from the debate are the underlying questions:

* Are students actually exhibiting behaviors that are inappropriate in school settings, and, if so, why?

* Is the failure of teachers to address these behaviors the cause of the suspensions? Is the preparation of school leaders/teachers inadequate? Are school leaders/teachers culturally and racially insensitive?

* Do suspensions modify the behavior of the students who are suspended?

* Do suspensions improve the outcomes for the remainder of the students in the classes?

and a core question,

Why do schools with similar populations have such different rates of suspension?  Are we preparing and selecting the “right” school leaders?

I was visiting a middle school in community (in)famous for handgun violence. One school was on the first two floors and another on the top floor. As I walked up the stairs it was sadly clear that the school on the lower floors was out-of-control. The school on the top floor was totally in order. Same kids from the same community, different school leaders with different skill sets and different outcomes.

A campus high school, four schools in a building, had a long history of school suspensions. A since retired head of school safety looked over the data and explained how to construct a school safety grid. We mapped the “precipitating event” and time of the “event” on a map of the school. It was fascinating!!  The “precipitating events” took place in and around the student cafeteria and in the hallways. The hallway events were clustered near classrooms with newer and/or less effective teachers.  More supervision in the cafeteria and more help for targeted teachers led to a more orderly school, at least , for a while.

The key to reducing suspension are the effectiveness of the school leaders and the classroom teachers. Should Lisa Delpit (““The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,”) be a foundational text for every teacher preparation classroom, or, because it is the foundational text, is that the source of poorly prepared teachers?

Will increasing the numbers of black teachers improve outcomes and reduce suspensions of black students? and, if so, why? (Read research findings here)

…there is compelling evidence that when students have a teacher of the same race, they tend to learn more at school (see “The Race Connection,” research, Spring 2004).

Those findings raise a parallel question: Does having a teacher of the same race make it more or less likely that students are subject to exclusionary school discipline?

David Kirkland, A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men (Teachers College Press, 2013)

… argues that educators need to understand the social worlds of African-American males to break the school-to-prison pipeline cycle.  The book asks the education community to listen to the voices of black youth to better understand what it means to be literate in a multicultural, democratic society.

Once again, is the source of the “problem” the failure to properly prepare teachers and school leaders?

If we expect student behavior to improve we must modify our behaviors. Suspension is a last resort, yes, occasionally the “street” does win. Schools reflect the cultures of their communities. The role of a school is to convince students to become “bi-cultural,” to accept that the culture of the street is not acceptable in a school setting. Teachers have argued that a suspension may “straighten out” a kid, and, is a lesson for the other kids: misbehave and you’ll be next to be suspended.  Does zero tolerance or suspensions improve outcomes for the remainder of the class?

The most common place for pickpockets to ply there trade was at the hangings of pickpockets. The area of deterrence theory may be applicable to the question of school discipline “The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket’s Hanging,”

This study examines the premise that criminals make informed and calculated decisions. The findings suggest that 76% of active criminals and 89% of the most violent criminals either perceive no risk of apprehension or are incognizant of the likely punishments for their crimes.

Studying behaviors of principals in low suspension schools in high suspensions districts is a place to begin. Unfortunately school district leadership usually looks for the quick fix, the “program” that will “fix” the problem. I have no objection to restorative practices or PBIS, I have rarely seen a program that fixes such a deep-seated issue. “Turning off the faucet,” changing the regs to limit suspensions, does not resolve the underlying issue. Harsh and rigid suspension rules do not  appear to impact the suspended student or the remainder of the students.

Some principals and teachers have figured this out, maybe we should find them and listen to them.

Are Suspensions a Pipeline to Prison or a Valid Response to Unacceptable Behavior? How Do Suspensions Impact the Behavior of the Other Students in the Class? Are Afro-American Parents Opposed to Suspensions?

Three years ago we were in the midst of a hotly contested mayoral election. Four high profile Democrats were battling for the democrat line on the November ballot. Bill Thompson, an Afro-American, had given Bloomberg a close run in 2009, the President of the City Counsel, Christine Quinn, the Comptroller, John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were dashing from forum to forum. When the dust settled not only did de Blasio win he won 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff. A key was clearly his early and vigorous opposition to Bloomberg’s “Stop and Frisk” and the Dante TV commercial..

de Blasio received more Afro-American votes than Thompson, the only Afro-American in the race. Virtually every Afro-American male in the city, regardless of their income or residence has a story. A cop stopping them for no apparent reason, treating them as if they were a  criminal, a victim of “walking or driving while black.”

During his three years de Blasio fulfilled his campaign promises, he has been the progressive mayor, seemingly vying for the leadership of the left wing of the Democratic Party, and, watching polling numbers drop.

The NY Post and the Daily News have criticized him daily, the Wall Street Journal and the Manhattan Initiate also taking shots at the mayor and Governor Cuomo has made it clear, he, Cuomo, not de Blasio, is the leader of the Democratic Party in the state.

A year away from the next election and the vultures are circling, de Blasio seems wounded, and possible opponents are smelling the carcass.

At this point there is no “Stop and Frisk” issue, at least not until after the November presidential. A Hillary presidency would put a totally different spin – she could endorse de Blasio, or, send out an “I support Bill” message, or, remain aloof. Crime continues to fall to historic levels; the city is prosperous, what are the issues?

Lack of affordable housing, high taxes, homelessness, poverty, undocumented immigration, crowded subways: the list goes on and on; are any of these issues core election issues? Can they grab the electorate?

The Dante TV commercial and de Blasio’s early outspoken opposition to Stop and Frisk, in my view, catapulted him to victory in 2013.

Is there a core issue in 2017 that will create a path to victory?

First, who are the potential voters?  An NYU Wagner report in 2013 parsed likely voters. Older, better educated, higher incomes and union members are more likely to vote,

See a detailed analysis of likely voters by neighborhood before the 2013 mayoral election:

Prime voter lists and detailed voter information can be purchased – see what you can find out about likely voters: http://gograssroots.org/files/analyzevoters.pdf

Potential voters are extremely diverse, by ethnicity, by income, by age, by education, by race and by religion or lack thereof.

Getting back to issues: will suspensions be the stop and frisk issue of 2017?

Are schools (i. e., suspensions) the pipeline to prison tropes so deeply ingrained in minority and liberal voters that it will emerge as the core issue? See Atlantic articles here  and here; and, as the Department of Education, perhaps responding to harsh criticism from the teacher and principal unions, backs away, even ever so slightly the Atlantic and progressives shove back.

While the suspension/pipeline to prison issue resonates in progressive circles, both white and black, does it resonate among Afro-American parents?

A year or so ago I was at an education forum, during a break a teacher was engaging with an Afro-American charter school parent. The teacher was telling the parent, “Charters throw out the disruptive kids.” The parent answered, “That’s exactly why I send my child to a charter school.”

You cannot simply use the term, “Afro-American voters,” who do you mean?   Older black voters?  Millennial black voters? Caribbean voters? See fascinating breakdown of voting trends by neighborhood here.

Caribbean voters (Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti) tend to be socially conservative, church-goers, union members, prefer kids to wear uniforms to school, and, I would argue far more likely to support strict discipline in schools. Highly educated black intellectuals firmly support the school to prison pipeline concept: David Kirkland director of  the Metro Center at NYU chairs the  Commission for Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

 If we trace backwards: are kids who end up in criminal justice and/or fail to graduate high school more likely to have been suspended in school. Did the suspension(s) lead to poor academics and/or antisocial behavior? Could alternative disciplinary procedures such as restorative justice practices or Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports  (PBIS) avert the negative outcomes associated with suspensions?  Do suspensions so stigmatize the student that future negative behaviors are to be expected?  On the other hand, how do suspensions impact the other students in the classroom?  Does the removal of disruptive students improve educational outcomes for the remainder of the class?

Complex issues and issues that are firmly held.

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