Tag Archives: David Steiner

The Assessment Wars: Is a Grassroots Revolution Bubbling Up Across the Nation Opposing Punitive Annual Testing?

The education community has been fighting the Reading Wars for decades, and, continues, unabated.

“Why Johnnie Can’t Read” became a national best seller in the 50’s and the battle simmered for decades. For some “whole language instruction” was a political attempt to capture the minds of our children, for others, namely, ED Hirsch, phonics was the path to effective reading instruction.  “Why Johnnie Can’t Read” even became a popular song.

 They’re back. Or maybe the “reading wars” never really went away. For decades, political skirmishes have raged between supporters of phonics instruction and proponents of language.

 Recently the skirmishes have boiled over into battles

The Assessment Wars are not far behind.

20% of parents in New York State have opted their children out of state tests, the  Long Island Opt Out Facebook page  has 25,000 members who are active in local politics, endorsing candidates and working in campaigns, they are a political force.

Is testing of children “new”?

We’re tested children for decades; in New York State children in the 4th and 8th grades were tested annually, additionally there were city and school district tests. The Regents Examinations, required for a diploma in New York State have been around for over 100 years

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the bipartisan law widely heralded in 2002 required testing of all children in grades 3-8 in ELA and Math, and, states had to establish Adequate Yearly Progress. The goal of the law was that by setting AYP goals states would incrementally more forward with all children being at grade level of 2014. The law seemed like NPR Garrison’s Keller’s mythical town of Lake Woebegone where all children are above average. If schools failed to meet goals, higher test scores, the law required interventions, i. e., schools closings, re-staffing, conversion to charter, and the punitive section of the law.

The successor law, the Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues annual testing; the law does change the school measurement metric from proficiency to a combination of growth plus proficiency. Major civil rights organizations strongly supported annual testing. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights , an umbrella advocacy organization, that was led by Wade Henderson  insisted on continuing annual testing.

“I don’t think you can dismiss the role that assessments play in holding educators and states overall responsible for the quality of education provided,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group of civil rights advocates that includes the NAACP and the National Urban League. States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing as a way of shirking accountability, Henderson said. “This is a political debate, and opponents will use cracks in the facade as a basis for driving a truck through it,” he said.

 In spite of efforts by unions and other advocates to test every third year and other compromises the law continued annual testing.

Has annual testing improved student outcomes?

The answer is a resounding “no.”

With a roll of drums the Obama administration rolled out the Common Core standards followed by Common Core based testing, the result: student scores declined, and, failed to recover.

The National Assessment of Student Progress (NAEP), called the nation’s report card, compares educational progress by state and large urban districts. Over the last few years New York State is moving in the wrong direction,; scores flat or actually regressing.

How do we assess student learning:  the collision of teaching and learning, that point at which the light bulb goes on, that magical moment in which a student “learns?”  Mike Petrilli at the Fordham Institution sees more research needed to uncover the “secret sauce.” For others the “solution” was the stick, use test scores to assess teacher effectiveness, use Value-Added Measurements, and reward and punish teachers. VAM has been trashed by leading statisticians; reformers ignored the criticism.

The reformers who led the VAM crusade ignored the “Cuban-Tyack Principle.”, unless teachers and parents embrace the innovation, the reform, it is doomed.

David Steiner challenges a basic premise, Common Core is not an “answer,” the answer should be curriculum; we should test what we actually teach.

Are there alternatives to the current testing regimen?

New Hampshire and a number of school districts are using performance tasks, Louisiana has an approved federal waiver to use periodic tests instead of end year testing, forty schools in New York State use portfolios in lieu of Regents Exams,

Can testing be useful?

Testing to inform teachers, to inform instruction is used every day, that Friday spelling tests, the math problems; Mike Schmoker in Focus  suggests multiple tests for understanding in every lesson.

Statewide testing has nothing to do with individual students, the purpose is to assess school/school district or state “progress,” or lack thereof. It is also used to shame and stigmatize, and, has created a growing opposition among parents.

The opt outs are now a national political movement. In the recent election teachers and parents played a major role. The “blue wave” included massive numbers of teachers, both in service and retired teachers; not only at the polls but in the trenches, ringing door bells, manning phone banks oft times side by side with active parents.

All politics is local, and, the revolt against testing is bubbling up across the nation. In New York State progressives rolled to victory first in the September democratic primary and in the November general election. While education has been on a political back burner the new crop of progressive electeds might very well be at the heart of a growing anti-testing revolt.

As Jefferson wrote 1787, “I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

Do Afro-American Students, (Especially Boys) Have Better Outcomes in Classes Taught by Afro-American Male Teachers? Or, Are Rich Curriculum and Rigorous Standards the Pathway to Improve Outcomes for All Students?

My early morning infusion is a doppio from the neighborhood Starbucks, customers, all white, some tapping away on a laptop, most had cups nearby, others not. Needless to say no one was asking the non-drinkers to leave. For many, Starbucks is a virtual office, good WiFi, readily available beverages, and you can work away for hours. The Starbucks “incident,” the arrest of two black men can be described as an example of “implicit bias,”

Implicit bias,

Implicit bias is the automatic associations people have in their minds about groups of people, including stereotypes. It forms automatically and unintentionally, but results in attitudes, behaviors or actions that are prejudiced for or against a person or a group of people.

 Two black men, hanging out, must be “up for trouble; black men, regardless of their income or level of education can regale you with “incidents,” being hassled for being black, experiences that white men never can imagine, they have the protective coating of white privilege.

What is white privilege? It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it was suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place …. a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.

A few years ago I was at a conference, a session dealt with “culturally relevant pedagogy,” a controversial term. One of the participants commented. “They’re going to teach us to be black.” Yes, controversial.

It was the first day of a graduate class in a teacher preparation program, I began with an ice breaker, “What’s your philosophy of education, (smile) in one sentence.” I nodded to Muhammad, who responded, “All white people are racists; it all depends on how they deal with their racism.”

The class turned to me, “Interesting, I have to give it some thought.”

Some students reacted angrily, “How can you call me a racist, it’s insulting, you don’t know me.” Others agreed, “I’m a white kid from the suburbs, I worry constantly about how I’m going to relate to inner city kids of color, whether they will accept me.”

Was Muhammad a racist? Or, was he pointing to a fact: we all have implicit biases: do we recognize and attempt to alleviate the biases?

The mainstream education commenters emphasize the teaching/learning process: teachers are assessed by frameworks or rubrics, Charlotte DanielsonKim MarshallMarzano  and others, all aver that teaching behaviors are scientifically documented; however, there are key unanswered  questions:  Does a rigid adherence to a set of frameworks guarantee learning? Does the gender, race or ethnicity of the teacher impact student learning? Should we alter teaching strategies based on the gender, race or ethnicity of the student?

I come from the days of the developmental lesson that begins with a motivation: an activity, or a statement, or a cartoon, a brief activity to seize the attention and engage the student. It didn’t always work, was it the inadequacy of my motivation or the alienation of the students? Did my gender/ethnicity impact the effectiveness of my lesson?

I’ve met many teachers who claim, “I’m a really good teacher; some kids just don’t care.” Are they “really good teachers?” Are there kids who “really don’t care”? Is there a classroom triage: we teach the kids we can reach? For many of us failures haunt us: what could we have done differently?

We’re encouraged to differentiate, to change/alter instructional strategies to match the needs of individual kids. If gender/ethnicity of a teacher impacts the teaching/learning process how can teachers alter practices to make up for “belonging” to the “wrong” gender/ethnicity?

There is growing evidence that Afro-American students, especially male students, have better academic outcomes in classes taught by Afro-American teachers.

Read articles here, here and here.

The “why” question is complex: implicit bias? lack of cultural competency? We don’t actually know.

Over the last few decades a new theory has entered the world of education: the theory of culturally competent pedagogy: teaching strategies to match the culture of the students, In Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit delves into the question of cultures,

A connecting theme throughout the book is how power imbalances and cultural conflicts within classrooms occur within a larger society that nurtures and maintains stereotypes. The culprit in these situations is not simply racism, though it certainly plays a part. It is the reluctance of people, especially those with power and privilege, “to perceive those different from themselves except through their own culturally clouded vision.” This inability is particularly destructive in classrooms where teachers view low-income and minority children as “other” and “see damaged and dangerous caricatures of the vulnerable and impressionable beings before them” 

New York State is in the process of establishing competencies for school leaders, The “Principal Preparation Project Advisory Team Preliminary Set of Consensus Recommendations,” uses the term “culture” a number of times.

 * Recognize, respect, and employ each student’s strengths, diversity, and culture  as assets for teaching and learning. Ensure that each student has equitable access to effective teachers, learning opportunities, academic and social support, and other resources necessary for success.

 * Confront and alter institutional biases of student marginalization, deficit-based schooling, and low expectations associated with race, class, culture and language, gender and sexual orientation, and disability or special status.

* Promote the preparation of students to live productively in and contribute to the diverse cultural contexts of a global society.

What the numerous mentions of culture  fails to do is to define culture.

An NYU team takes a deep dive in the world of culturally responsive education (D’Andrea,  Montalbano, & Kirkland, (2017), Culturally Responsive Education: A Primer for Policy and Practice), The authors, citing numerous research studies endorse the impact of culturally responsive education (CRE) and explores the challenges,

… the challenge is how to solidify the theory of cultural responsiveness into concrete policies and practices that can support learning for all students. To this extent, its critical lens has been applied to curriculum, classroom design, instruction, home-school relationships, disciplinary policies, and school-wide initiatives to promote equity, social justice, community outreach, improvements to school climate, and academic achievement.

The authors acknowledge the gap between research and the classroom practice.

  Given all this rich scholarship, policymakers and practitioners alike are left with the obvious question: “What do we do with all this?” Assuming everyone accepts the general premises of the largely theoretical research and what quantitative data do exist, what is culturally responsive education? Is it a curriculum? A teacher training protocol or program? An accountability system? Can it be any or all of them? The scholars who helped shape and expand this philosophy differ in both specific and vague ways on such questions.

David Steiner and Robert Pondisico, major education voices, may disagree, and may blame efforts to use race/ethnicity and culture “schemes” for failing to increase outcomes for children of color. I believe they would argue that a rich curriculum and high standards are the only pathway and culturally relevant pedagogy may sidetrack and result in lower standards, effectively, an example of implicit bias.

 A principal friend (black) was in a school waiting in the office to meet with the principal, the dean (white) escorted two girls (black) into office aggressively chastising them, “Fighting is unacceptable, I’d suspend both of you, this isn’t the first time …wait for the principal, it’s up to her.”

My friend walked over to the two girls, who were glowering at each other,

“You girls like Carti – b?”

They were surprised, a teacher, even a black teacher knowing about the latest big voice in hip-hop.

He asked, “Do you know she doesn’t write her own songs, she buys songs.”

One of the girls knew, the other didn’t, my friend engaged the girls in conversation – the principal came out of her office and began to chastise the girls for fighting.

Both girls turned to the principal, “Everything’s cool,” and walked away continuing the discussion.

I asked my friend, “An example of culturally relevant pedagogy?”

My principal friend smiled: “Experience: knowing 12-year olds and the art of distraction, move the conversation away from fighting to a topic that engages them, deal with the fighting later”

I asked, “Culturally relevant pedagogy?”

He laughed, “I’d say a few decades dealing with kids in inner city environments.”

Teaching is about connecting with your students, understanding the world of your students, “catching them” wherever they are and bringing them to where you want them to be.

Yes,  a Black or Latinx or an Asian teacher might  have an initial advantage, a leg up in relating to the student, might become that role model that changes lives, or on the other hand the “advantage” might fade, the teacher might not have the requisite teaching skills.

If culturally relevant education can be taught, can it be translated into engaging students, or, is it an implicit bias from the left, is it a trompe d’oeil?

The most effective teachers have the largest and deepest tool bags.

 

Race and Ethnicity: Does the Race/Ethnicity of a Teacher Impact Student Learning?

Back in 2008, after the election of Barrack Obama I began to read the words, “post racial America” (“There is No Post Racial America“), maybe not so fast.

I believe the subtext of conversations are race, gender and class, and, maybe add sexual orientation. From Colin Kaepernick, “white privilege” the twitter war  between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornell West, to the biting humor of Dave Chapelle (“Is Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Style Racist?,”) discussions about race, uncomfortable to some, is essential.

In 2014 the UCLA Diversity Project released a report accusing New York of creating the most segregated schools in the nation.  Slowly, inexorably, New York City moved to create a school integration plan and finally released the plan in June, 2017.

In some districts students of different races live in the same general neighborhoods, in others schools are hyper-segregated, the term to describe neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly neighborhoods of color.

I blogged about the issue last week and mused whether the emphasis on integration/segregation is distracting from working to improve the majority of schools in hyper-segregated neighborhoods

The de Blasio/Farina team continues to look for the “secret sauce,” the highly touted Renewal Schools program is struggling, integration is a politically heavy lift and another initiative is increasing the diversity among the staff.

The Men Teacher initiative, a mayoral program is in its third year,

While male students of color make up 43% of NYC’s public school demographic, only 8.3% of the entire teacher workforce is made up of Black, Latino and Asian men.

By 2020, the majority of U.S. children will be youth of color.  Yet their classrooms—which are the bridges to opportunity, access, and success— will not reflect this diversity.  Research shows that students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences who help create a positive learning environment and leave a profound impact on students’ grades and self-worth.

 The Men Teach cohort will be closely tracked, do they remain in teaching? Are they more, less or equally effective as all other teachers? A rich source of future research.

Does research actually show that “students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences,” and what the hell does that that mean? Let’s be more direct: Does the Race/Ethnicity of a teacher impact student learning?

The State Education Department (SED) sponsored report from the Wallace Foundation on Principal Preparation and a recent research paper from David Kirkland at the NYU Metro Center both call for increasing numbers of teachers of color in the schools.

The Wallace Foundation report calls for a quota system,

…[State Education should] put in motion an expectation that local school districts begin to set goals to recruit, select, develop, and place individuals from historically under-represented populations within the ranks of school building leaders, so that the racial and ethnic mix of the principal corps in the district matches the mix of the student population within the district at large.

 Will the State Department of Education actually endorse a racial/ethnic quota system for principals?  A “Rooney_Rule ” for school districts?

The NYU Metro Center report, “Separate But Unequal” recommends,

 The researchers … recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Education Trust has released a sortable tracker of teachers of color by district ; teachers of color predominantly work in districts that are hyper-segregated.

Schools with large percentages of teachers of color identified in the tracker do not appear to be any more successful than all other schools with similar students.

Does research support that teachers of color positively impact the achievement of students of color?

Dan Goldhaber and others, well-regarded researchers have taken a deep dive into the research around impact of teachers of color.

The Center for Education Data and Research, “The Theoretical and Empirical Arguments for Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: A Review of the Evidence,” (Goldhaber and others, 2015) reports,

Concerns about the (lack of) diversity of the U.S. teacher workforce—and, in particular, the mismatch between the demographics of the teacher workforce and the nation’s students—are not new. Indeed, the recruitment of minorities into teaching has long been a policy goal, particularly in districts with large percentages of minority students….  As then Secretary of Education Richard Riley put it nearly two decades ago, “Our teachers should look like America … Despite this rhetoric, we have made relatively little progress toward ensuring that the diversity of the teaching workforce reflects the diversity of the student body in U.S. public schools.

 These theoretical arguments suggest several ways that increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce might improve outcomes for racial/ethnic minority students. However, as we describe in the next section, empirical researchers have put these theories to the test and generally found that, all else being equal (and, importantly, all else is often not equal), minority students do appear to benefit when they are taught by a teacher of the same race/ethnicity.

 … there are good theoretical reasons to believe that minority students would benefit from a more diverse teaching workforce, and these theoretical arguments are largely backed by empirical evidence suggesting that there are small but meaningful “role model effects” when minority students are taught by teachers of the same race. Thus, our perspective is that policy makers should consider policies to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce as one of many strategies to attempt to close racial and ethnic achievement gaps in public schools.

 The answer to original question: does race/ethnicity of teachers positive impact student achievement, the answer is yes, with the caveat, “all else being equal” and additionally “there are small but meaningful ‘role model effects’”

Goldhaber’s caveat: “all things being equal.”

I worked in a large high school, over 3,000 kids with only a few Afro-American teachers. The principal called one of the black teachers, a friend of mine, into his office, praised him to the sky, an extraordinary teacher, etc., and offered him the job of one of the deans of students.

The teacher thanked him and turned down the job, the principal pushed, “Why don’t you want the job, you understand these kids?” The teacher asked, “Which kids?” The principal: “Your people.” The teacher: “I’d rather be the faculty adviser to the Honor Society.”  The principal, clearly shocked.” You’re not qualified.” The teacher: “I’m not qualified because I’m black? I’m only qualified to be the slave master keeping the bucks in line?”  They never spoke again; the principal left a couple of years later.

A close friend of mine, one of a few black teachers became the music teacher in an elementary school. The principal asked, “Are you going to teach ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ and spirituals?”

My friend: “First, “America the Beautiful,” “The National Anthem,” and “This Land is Our Land,” and I’m going to teach our students to read music.” The principal: “Why would you teach them to read music?” The teacher: “Aren’t your kids in their Scarsdale school learning to read music? Why should our kids be any different?”

Are the principals referenced above racists or just insensitive?

What we learned?

  • A black teacher in a school with a predominantly white staff can have a difficult time.
  • Schools with large numbers of teachers of color do not have better results than schools in general according to the tracker referenced above.
  • Studies show teachers of color “modestly” improve outcomes for children of color.
  • Studies also show the most diverse schools also “modestly” outperform students in the least diverse schools.

School integration and staff diversity should be pursued; however. these efforts will only “modestly” impact student achievement.

While student integration and teacher diversity dominate the headline there is a relatively inexpensive fix that will have significant impact, David Steiner writes,

Shifting from a poor to an excellent curriculum can increase student learning by the annual equivalent of several months of additional learning, or, to put the same point differently, can move a student who is performing at the 50th percentile to the 70th. This level of impact is greater than replacing every first-year teacher in America with a veteran teacher.

 Hopefully the new chancellor will move the school system from responding to external criticism to developing a system-wide research-based approach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The substance might be less important than the message.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The union contract contains a consultation requirement,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixing Teacher Preparation in New York State: Why Collaborative Processes Improve Outcomes.

How should we prepare prospective teachers for the classroom?

Law schools require a three-year sequence of classes and culminates in an examination – the bar exam.  The exam is not an accurate predictor of success or competence, it is the badge that the legal profession requires for entry.

The Office of the Professions within the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) licenses about fifty different professions. From medicine to veterinarian  to massage therapist to speech language pathologist, each has specific requirements and the state issues licenses/certifications that are required for practice.

The licensing process sets a minimum bar for entry into a profession.

State Ed approves colleges and university courses of study and requires terminal exams. The NYSED website lays out the step by step process and before John King required two examinations, the LAST and the ACT-W, the pass rates were in the high 90 percents.

When David Steiner, who had an excellent relationship with the education community, especially the unions, precipitously left his deputy John King became the commissioner.

The Common Core and the Common Core testing “pushed off the end of the diving board” approach has been well documented. Proficiency rates (aka pass rates) moved from 2/3 passing to 2/3 failing. Opposition grew into the Opt -Out Movement, one in five students opted out, and the opt-outs are heavily concentrated in suburban communities: the better to pressure the local electeds. The Long Island Opt-Out Facebook page has over 20,000 “friends.”

What had not received adequate coverage is the King imposed changes to teacher preparation certification requirements. King dumped the two exams and replaced them with four exams without any consultation with college instructors or deans.

The new exams are the edTPA, Educating All Students (EAS), Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) and the Content Specialty Test (CST) in the area of specialization.  At colleges the new requirements created chaos, suddenly colleges were turned into test prep mills, new exam passing rates fell sharply, many students were not completing the cycle of exams and the state instituted safety nets in an attempt to salvage and defend the flawed system. (See John King letter here)

If I was teaching a course for superintendents on policy creation and implementation I would use the  teacher prep policy changes as an example of how well-intended changes can crash without a carefully crafted collaborative plan; and, I would emphasize the word collaborative.

There is an immense literature on organizational change: the number one rule, “participation reduces resistance.”

A year or so ago the new chancellor and the new state commissioner began to rebuild the relationships: teachers, legislators, parents, the governor, trying to craft policies that addressed the myriad issues confronting schools.

Betty Rosa, the new chancellor is the leader of the policy board, the Board of Regents. Rosa chose Regents Cashin and Collins to co-chair the Higher Education Committee. Regent. Cashin, a career educator in New York City and Regent Collins, with a nursing,  background from Buffalo.

Over the last year the chairs of the Higher Ed Committee have held about ten forums across the state (I attended two of them). Hundreds of college teachers and students participated, wide ranging discussions, a few panels were live streamed. Deans of colleges of education met with the Higher Ed Committee, the union, the  UUP (United University Professions) played a crucial role. An edTPA Task Force was formed, co-chaired by a high level SUNY administrator and a vice president of the UUP.

At the Monday. February 13th Regents Meeting [Meeting canceled due to blizzard conditions] a proposal will be put forth.

(Click on the links for detailed explanations)

 

Proposed Amendments to Part 80 of the Commissioner’s Regulations Related to the Elimination of the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) for Teacher Certification and to Remove Unnecessary References to the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test |  HE (A) 1 *
Proposed Amendment to Section 80-1.5 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to the Establishment of a Multiple Measures Review Process for the edTPA |  HE (D) 1 *

 

The Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) will no longer be required and a revised safety net will be in place for the edTPA .

This is not the end of the process, the ed TPA Task Force will continue to review the teacher preparation requirements,  especially the student teaching requirements that vary widely from college to college.

The King approach: to push changes through the Board of Regents without any consensus from the field, from the folks who are expected to carry out the edict frequently dooms the plan.

Enrollment rates in college preparation programs have plummeted from 20% to 40% across the state.  Troubling numbers of students are not completing the exams and not seeking state certification – perhaps seeking employment in other states or in charter schools.

Consensus does not mean unanimity:  at some point in a consensus-building process the leadership has to move to implementation. I fully expect the Board to approve the actions, a comment period, final action later in the Spring, and, a continuing process to explore and revise the teacher preparation pathway.

Yes, we want to assure that teachers are adequately prepared for the classroom. We don’t know whether the exams assure competence, we cannot predict classroom outcomes based on college or exam grades. Teaching is part art and part skill. The revised process appears to be a major step in the right direction, but, only a step.  Are students from some colleges more successful than students from other colleges, and, if so, why? Does teacher diversity or gender impact student learning?  How many weeks of student teaching is the “right” amount? Exploring and fine tuning the teacher prep process is ongoing. The required course of study and the exams provide minimum requirements, akin to the legal profession bar exam.

As teachers we know we will always have to strive to get better, first year or tenth year or twentieth year there are always new skills, if we stop learning we atrophy.

Back to that course for superintendents: I would ask Regents Cashin and Collins to lay out the process that they followed,  Building consensus can be slow, frustrating, at times filled with conflict, personality can get in the way of process, there will be wrong turns, and, eventually the leadership must bring the process to a conclusion. Everyone will not satisfied and some may throw stones.  Remember what Churchill said about democracy: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Regents Cashin and Collins deserve accolades for correcting a broken process by including all the folks involved in the day to day preparation of new teachers in the process and having the patience and understanding to continue to seek to improve teacher preparation as we move forward in New York State.

Race: Does the Race of a Teacher Impact Student Performance? Does the Race of a School Leader Impact Teacher Effectiveness?

(Five years ago I wrote a blog musing on the impact of the race of a teacher/school leader on student performance. New York City, New York State and advocates nationally are called for increases in numbers of black teachers, especially black males. Schools of education are including “white privilege,” “culturally relevant pedagogy” and “stereotype threat” into course curriculum.  I have reposted an updated version of the original post)

 A federal court judge in a scathing decision ordered the New York Fire Department (FDNY) to change their hiring practices to integrate the work force. Forty years ago the Court established a “disparate impact test” in the Griggs v Duke Power Co. decision,

“What is required by Congress is the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment when the barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of racial or other impermissible classification.”

Since race has no impact on the effectiveness of a firefighter management must institute hiring practices that do not discriminate against protected groups.

Race is a highly sensitive issue:  the subtext of every conversation is race, gender and class. We shy away from discussing race, we fear stepping on toes, being called a “racist,” (or a sexist, or promoting class warfare); ideally we should be engaging in the difficult conversations.

In a graduate education class I was teaching a student expressed, “All whites are racists; the question is how they respond to their racism.” Some were offended, others agreed while many were confused. Observing the students as student teachers was enlightening: a few tried to “relate” by using what they assumed was ghetto language, others were aloof and simply taught the subject matter, a few, very few, managed to gain the respect and engagement of the students.

I know black male teachers who have changed the lives of generations of black students and have met black teachers who reviled their students. One of my black students occasionally references  on Facebook what he learned in my class twenty-five years ago.

What does research say about the impact of the race of the teacher on student achievement?

The education hierarchy is data-obsessed; we collect seemingly infinite bits of data and base every meaningful decision on that data: the granting of tenure, the closing of schools, annual teacher ratings, etc.

The bureaucracy has not collected data relating student achievement to the race of the teacher. In fact there is surprisingly little research in this area.

Dee S. Thomas of Swarthmore College, in a much quoted article  writes,

“… 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.”

Thomas goes on to warn us, “… the most important caveat is that this study tells us little about why the racial match between students and teachers seems to matter.”

So, the race of the teacher seems to matter, although we don’t know why. It could be the training of the teacher, it could be the method of assigning students to classes, or we could look at the work of Claude Steele.

In an iconic 1992 article Steele raises the issue of stigma,

“I have long suspected a particular culprit—a culprit that can undermine black achievement as effectively as a lock on a schoolhouse door. The culprit I see is stigma, the endemic devaluation many blacks face in our society and schools.

This status is its own condition of life, different from class, money, culture. It is capable, in the words of the late sociologist Erving Goffman, of ‘breaking the claim’ that one’s human attributes have on people. I believe that its connection to school achievement among black Americans has been vastly underappreciated.”

We may speculate on the impact of the race match of students and teachers; data is interesting, troubling, but does not allow us to draw statistically significant conclusions.

What is the impact of the race of the school leader on teachers?

A just released study  from the University of Missouri is enlightening,

“Teachers are substantially more likely to stay in schools run by a principal of the same race …. Teachers who share the same race as their principal … report higher job satisfaction, particularly in schools with African-American principals.”

“This association may be driven by differences in how such schools are managed, given that teachers who share the same race as their principal report higher levels of administrative support and more recognition than other teachers report.”

* White teachers with white principals received more money in supplemental salaries, such as stipends for coaching or sponsoring clubs, than African-American teachers with white principals.

* In schools with African-American principals, the supplemental salary rates were roughly the same.

* African-American teachers reported much higher rates of intangible benefits, such as administrative support and encouragement, classroom autonomy and recognition for good job performance, when they worked for an African-American principal. The rates were roughly the same for all teachers under white principals.

* The data shows race plays a significant role in the principal-teacher relationship, “It appears that African-American teachers generally have a more positive experience when the principal is of the same race.”

Keiser (the primary researcher) says that previous research has shown that minority teachers improve the educational experience of minority students. Because of this, Keiser believes that her study shows the importance for maintaining the diversity of principals within schools as well.

“Our results illustrate that an important factor in maintaining the racial diversity of teachers is the diversity of the principals that supervise these teachers.  We hope these findings could provide justification for policymakers to undertake targeted at increasing the flow of minority teachers into the principal pipeline.”

Over the Bloomberg-Klein years the percent of minority teachers in New York declined due to the reliance on Teacher for America whose teachers are predominantly white. Principals are selected either through the Principals’ Academy, the Aspiring Principals programs, or, in some instances are promoted from assistant principal positions. The NYC Department has a “principal exam” which moves candidates into the principal selection pool.

Observationally very few of the Academy or Aspiring Principals are Afro-American males.

Does it matter?

Should the Department make special efforts to include minority candidates in the candidate pool? Should they have an informal “Rooney Rule“?

We must not shy away from difficult questions; an ostrich-like “head in the sand” reliance on data is foolish and not productive. We have to address difficult, troubling and politically sensitive issues. Yes, I have worked with highly effective white superintendents and principals in 100% Afro-American districts and schools and totally ineffective Afro-American principals in 100% Afro-American schools.  I can’t remember an Afro-American principal in a predominantly white school.

We live in a “Closing the Achievement Gap” education world. Schools, school leaders and teachers are “measured” by the extent to which the school is “proficient,” and “proficiency” is defined by scores on standardized tests.

Poverty, class, race, funding, ethnicity, school leaders and teachers all enter the equation. We cannot throw up our hands and blame any of the above.  Too many of us in today’s environment are in the “blame game.” The self-styled education reformers blame teachers, teachers may blame poverty, advocates blame funding inadequacies, and issues of race and class hover unresolved.

We live an increasingly diverse world, we are moving toward a “majority minority” nation. Diversity is a complex term. The New York City school system is only fifteen percent white and the overwhelming majority of whites live in white enclaves (Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Riverdale, etc.)  The other eighty-five percent are Afro-American, both American and Caribbean, Asian from China, Korea and other nations and Hispanics from over a dozen nations; all with distinct cultural mores and antagonisms towards other ethnicities. Add the rapidly increasing numbers of inter-racial marriages and recognize that New York City, and many other cities across the nation are both melting pots, cauldrons of ethnicities, some merging, others bubbling. Our teachers and school leaders should reflect the world around them; our diverse student body deserves a diverse teaching corp.

Race alone will not impact student achievement.

In fact in a recent study Harvard professor Tom Kane writes the single most effective intervention, an intervention that far exceeds the impact of a novice versus an experienced teacher are textbooks aligned to curriculum and standards.  (Watch a video of a symposium hosted by David Steiner here and listen to my snarky question at about the 1:08 mark).

Can the Regents, the Legislature and the Governor Agree Upon a New Path that Will Assuage Opt-Out Parent Anger? Windows Open/Windows Close – Who Are the Leaders?

There are moments in time, in history, a window opens; an opportunity for change and, occasionally the leadership is right and history changes direction.

After seven bloody and frustrating years we won the revolutionary war, or, to be more accurate, with the crucial assistance of our French allies, we won the key battle that convinced the British to abandon the war.

Our first government, the Article of Confederation (excuse me, I’m a history teacher) created an amalgam of states, not a coherent nation. There was no president, Congress could not levy taxes, the states, the former colonies, had separate currencies and there was no military, all decisions required the approval of all of the thirteen states. As the not yet so United States of American stumbled along the Brits were convinced that it was only a matter of time before the colonies would ask to come back to mother England.

George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton plotted. The Constitutional Convention, called to tweak the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation was used by Washington, Madison and Hamilton to craft our constitution. Large states and small states, slave states and free states, plantation owners, farmers and craftsman argued from April to September and against overwhelming odds actually produced our governing document. Madison and Hamilton, with John Jay wrote the eighty plus essays supporting the ratification of the constitution that we call The Federalist Papers.

A narrow window, incredible leaders.

John F Kennedy’s election in 1960 presaged a change in direction for the nation. The “bright, shining moment,” the Camelot years, JFK and Jackie were the “King and Queen,” however the long list of progressive legislation was languishing in Congress. Lyndon Johnson had been a conservative senator from Texas who only ended up on the ticket to woo southern voters; however, as Robert Caro’s masterful biography chronicles Johnson was the right person at the right time – he guided the Kennedy legislation, from voting rights, to public accommodation to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act through what had been a recalcitrant Congress.

A narrow window, the perfect person with the perfect skills.

At the Camp David Summit in 2000 President Clinton, Israeli President Rabin and PLO leader Arafet came within inches of a peace accord, and, months after the talks failed; Arafat launched the second Intafada. Fifteen years later the Middle East is still aflame and the Iran Nuclear Treaty will either begin a path to peace or a path to the destruction of Israel.

A narrow window, leadership failed.

With the hubris that comes with the mantel of leadership, the scepter and orb of the presidency, President Obama and his lifelong friend decided to reshape the education system across the nation, to hurdle over state education departments and school boards and unions and parents, Obama/Duncan knew what was best for children; the establishment, the “ancien regime” only stood in the way of progress, a revolution was necessary, the only way to end poverty was to create highly effective schools and the old guard had to be skirted and/or removed.

3.4 billion in Race to the Top dollars dangled, with strings, student growth score -based teacher evaluation, school choice, aka, charter schools, the erosion or elimination of tenure, full adoption of the Common Core, weakening of teacher unions, higher standards for prospective teachers, “waivers” to control state policies, and an endless array of policies and intrusions to control education from top to bottom, from Washington directly to classrooms.

John King, Arne Duncan’s surrogate in New York State jumped into the Commissioner’s chair when David Steiner precipitously resigned. In spite of a few critical voices the majority of the Board of Regents allowed King to run unchecked: Race to the Top, Common Core, growth score influenced teacher evaluation, high cut scores for the new teacher exams and the “pushed off the end of the diving board” switch to the Common Core grades 3-8 exams. It certainly looked like the Obama-Duncan education agenda had been moved to New York State, the Empire State was to be the proving ground for the new world of education reform, according to Arne Duncan.

Suggestions that the new Common Core test items should be phased in or the standard-setting should be adjusted to allow for the sea change in instruction that would be required was ignored. Randi Weingarten, in a major address before the movers and shakers, with King in the audience called for a moratorium, allow a few years for the kids and teachers to absorb the standards, no dice.

King’s “listening tour” was halted as the meetings became opportunities for communities to flail King, and, King responded by blaming “outside agitators,” further inflaming angry parents.

Cuomo’s decision to show the teachers, and everyone else, that he’s in charge, only poured napalm on already flaming embers. Embracing charter schools and their dollars, imposing yet another obtuse teacher evaluation plan, increasing probation for new teachers, only succeeded in angering the education community, not coweringing the education community.

An unintended consequence is the explosion of the opt-out movement – one in five children opted-out of the state tests – over 200,000 kids, and, a hell of a lot of angry parents, parents concentrated in middle class districts on Long Island and some suburban communities upstate – the opt outs are the sans culottes, the foot soldiers of a new revolution. The anger of the opt-outers is directed at the electeds who they hold responsible for polices emanating from the governor and the regents.

The legislature responded by dumping two of the most senior regents members, members who had not uttered a word of criticism as King rolled over the Board. Bennett and Dawson campaigned hard, to no avail.

The message from the democratic-controlled Assembly was clear – we want change – we may not be able to stand up to the governor- we want the regents to remove the anger – do what you can to pacify, mollify, assuage the angry parent opt-out voters; although we really don’t know what we want you to do.

At the Wednesday (September 15th) regents meeting the six members of the opposition caucus, the four newly appointed members (Collins, Chin, Johnson and Ouderkirk) and the members who have consistently challenged the King agenda (Cashin and Rosa) voted against the new, new teacher evaluation plan (3012-d). Each made a brief, passionate statement; the messages: growth score (VAM) based teacher evaluation plans were neither scientifically acceptable nor good for teachers and children. Regent Tilles responded, he agreed with the dissident six on every point; however, the law would deprive districts of increases in state aid if the regulations were not approved injuring the very children the six were committed to help. The motion passed and the regents asked the key question: if we all agree that the new plan (3012-d), the over reliance on growth-based (VAM) score was wrong – what next? Tilles supported creating a new teacher evaluation system without the worts of the current plan, and, the regents directed the commissioner to create such a plan by the end of the year – in time to submit to the new legislative session.

The governor has signaled; he will create a commission to review the Common Core, and, when asked about a change in the regulations to allow a teacher to appeal their growth score he had no objection.

In other words a window is open.

The governor, the legislature and the regents all want a system that will assuage the anger; however, what is that system?

Can the new commissioner, who is still hiring key staff actually “make magic”?

As the Obama-Duncan onslaught loses steam are there leaders in New York State who can come together to turnaround the misdirected current waves of senseless reform?

The Republicans have a very narrow majority in the Senate – will the opt-out voters blame the Republicans for the supporting Cuomo actions? If so, Democratic strategists might say, “Let’s not resolve anything and drive the opt-out voters to the Democratic side.” Conversely, the opt-out voters are not party-driven and may vote to throw out all of the incumbents, Republicans and Democrats, unless a “solution” is found.

How much change will the governor buy-in to? He can’t support anything that looks like a defeat.

Teachers despise Cuomo, anything he supports teacher oppose … the chances of enacting a Mayan ritual of ripping his still beating heart out of his chest appears unlikely. The elephant in the room, lurking in every corner is the property tax cap – districts all over the state are being squeezed, cuts every year in programs, layoffs of staff, with no end in sight.

Washington, Madison, Hamilton and Lyndon Johnson are only memories – is there a leader, or leaders, who can reverse the tide?

Windows open, and close.