Tag Archives: diversity

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.

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).

Success Academy Charter School Staff Diversity: Why is the Staff Overwhelming White? Tone Deaf? By Choice? A Diverse Workforce is Essential in the 21st Century.

The NY Daily News reports,

More than 1,000 city charter school teachers will rally for change Wednesday in Manhattan’s Foley Square, officials from a pro-charter school group said Friday.

Families for Excellent Schools’ CEO Jeremiah Kittredge said, “Great teachers change children’s lives every day, … Teachers will stand united to demand an end to this education inequality.”

Families for Excellent Schools is the very deep pocketed advocacy organization that pays for the TV ads, trashes Mayor de Blasio and the teachers union, and, refuses to disclose the source of their millions.

Most of the charter school teachers will come from 34-school Success Academy Charter network led by Eva Moskowitz.

As you look out over the crowd you’ll notice one striking factor – the teachers are overwhelming white. Charter schools proudly proclaim that their hands aren’t tied by union rules or other regulations, in fact, state law give them wide discretion in hiring, they can hire non-certified teachers. It is strange that they choose to hire a less diverse teaching force.

A recent report tallies the diversity among teachers in the Success Academy schools,

The information below was obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools that responded to our request. The percentage of white teachers at each Success Academy School is listed below for the 2013-2014 school year:
SA Cobble Hill 82%
SA Crown Heights 57%
SA Fort Green 100%
SA Harlem I 73%
SA Harlem II 63%
SA Harlem III 61%
SA Harlem IV 56%
SA Harlem V 76%
SA Hell’s Kitchen 89%
SA Prospect Heights 91%
SA Upper West 82%
SA Williamsburg 71%
SA Bed-Stuy II 80%
SA Bronx I 74%
SA Bronx II 66%

In 2012 58.6% of teachers in the NYC public schools were white. Out of the 15 Success Academy Charter schools listed above, 13 out of 15 have a higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC.

The Success Academy did not respond to requests for comment from the Teachers Diversity Committee of NYC, the source of the report above.

Why is the Success Academy network not seeking a more diverse teacher workforce?

Perhaps they will argue they cannot find enough “qualified” teachers of color, an argument that would be pilloried in the public arena.

Perhaps they will argue, they follow the law and are color blind in hiring, they hire the “best and the brightest” regardless of color or ethnicity.

Perhaps they aren’t getting many applicants from prospective teachers of color.

The pedagogy in the Success Academy schools is rote, highly disciplined and punishment, suspensions, are commonplace, perhaps the pedagogical/discipline practices chase away teachers of color.

John Merrow on PBS reports on the high levels of suspensions in kindergarten in the Success Academy schools, that’s right, suspending five year olds, watch the brief U-Tube,

The data on the impact of suspensions is indisputable; students who are frequently suspended are far more likely to drop out of school and far more likely to end up in the prison system – the school to prison pipeline. Perhaps teachers of color choose not to participate in a system that might raise test scores for some while driving out others and beginning their path down the pipeline to prison.

Lingering but unsaid: does race matter? Does the race of the teacher impact student achievement? Should schools, at the K-12 or the college level seek teachers who can serve as mentors, as role models for students of color?

The literature supporting mentoring/role model relationships is vast, at the K – 12 and at college level.

A few weeks ago I was at a tailgate before a football game, as a car passed the window rolled down and someone yelled out the name of the teacher who was standing next to me. A few minutes later, the former student wrapped his former teacher in a bear hug and exclaimed to everyone how the teacher had changed his life. A decade earlier he had been a black student in an overwhelmingly white school with an almost all white staff – the black teacher had “saved” the black student. Yes, an anecdote, a white teacher may have played the same role; however, in my experience role models are extremely important for kids, and diverse teaching forces provide opportunities for role models and developing mentor-mentee relationships.

Race alone does not make for a more effective teaching force; however, a diverse teaching force is vital for the staff as well as for the student body.

Charter schools have a unique “advantage” over public schools as far as test scores are concerned – they can force out the low performers, either through expelling a student for disciplinary reasons or making the student so uncomfortable that the parent withdraws the student. Charter schools also do not enroll the same percentages of students with disabilities or English language learners, and the students with disabilities that they do enroll have lesser handicaps that allow them to score higher on the state tests. If we compare “apples to apples,” general ed students to general ed public schools do as well or better than charter schools in the same district. An interesting study would be the impact of the force out charter school kids on the receiving public schools.

Success Academy and many other charter schools use a “no excuses” system – rigid rules, pre-scripted lessons, 100% focus on preparing for the state tests. The data is not encouraging. What percentage of entering kindergarten kids graduate to middle school in the fifth grade? The erosion of students is far higher than in public schools. Do charter schools fill the empty seats, seats vacated by students who are forced out? The answer is a resounding “no.”

What the Success Academy has been is very successful at attracting philanthropy. The larger charter school networks attract significant dollars to lower class size, train teachers, and provide high quality classrooms well-stocked with supplies. What is the per capita difference? We don’t know – the amount and use of the philanthropic dollars is not public information.

Whether the Success Academy network is simply tone deaf or is actively not seeking teachers of color, the result is the same. Diversity of staffs, for all-minority or all-white or integrated schools is essential.

To be perfectly honest I view with suspicion the hiring practices of the Success network – after all some of those black teachers may be secret Black Panthers, or, may be troublemakers, they may ask hard questions, let’s just only hire “safe” teachers, teachers who will keep their mouths shut and do what they’re told.

Ultimately I fear the Success practices will exacerbate not assuage student achievement gaps, graduation rates and college retention.