Tag Archives: Edustats

Is New York City Headed Toward a Collaborative School System Eschewing Testing for Project-Based Learning or Using Tests to Batter and Punish Schools? Schizophrenia Abounds

As the opening of school approaches CityandState, an online website hosts an Education Summit. The guest speaker was Richard Carranza, the chancellor, I blogged about his presentation here.  and included an audio of his presentation.

The chancellor announced a new initiative, Edustats, and gave a brief discussion.

Yesterday the City Council conducted a hearing on excessive testing and I signed up to testify. The chair of the committee, Mark Treyger, is a New York City high school teacher on leave.

The council has oversight responsibility; in a mayoral control city the council has no authority over schools; except, to hold public hearings.

The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to give exposure to the 38 high schools that have a waiver from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Regents Examination requirements. The waiver schools only require the English Regents; students present in-depth research papers in Social Studies, Mathematics and Science. The state has been renewing the waivers since the 90’s; the current waiver is for five years. The schools are part of the Performance-Based Standards Consortium , a not-for-profit run by the estimable Ann Cook, The Consortium functions as sort of a somewhat independent cluster within the larger school system. Numerous chancellors and commissioners have approved the waivers, some reluctantly and not without external political pressures.

Laura Chin, the # 2 at the Department of Education testified at the hearing and mentioned Edustats, the new Department initiative; Treyger pressed her on the program. The Department will require periodic assessments, the Executive Superintendents will review the results with Superintendents, and Chin described the process as similar to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Comstat system. Borough commanders meet with precinct commanders and review data, detailed crime statistics, and grill the precinct commanders: what have they done to respond to statistical increases in the crime data? Why isn’t it working? The precinct commanders despise the process: public shaming with the threat of job removal. While the precinct commander can move patrol cops from one area to another schools can’t prevent evictions or provide food for families or more racially integrated schools.

According to Chin every school would create an Instructional Leadership Team to address the Edustats results. (Don’t we already have School Leadership Teams?)

Chin responded to questioning describing the system as a benign “in-house” self-assessment.

In my testimony I described Edustats as educational “Hunger Games.”

For decades school districts have been implementing similar approaches. They are all based on a fallacy: given proper “motivation” and “information” all teachers can raise all test scores. A flawed belief system: there is a “magic” bullet that will raise test scores.

Teachers assess data every day.

Who is absent, late, crying, sad, wearing dirty clothes, hungry, addressing these “data” is a key part of the teaching/learning process.

Every lesson we teach contains “tests for understanding,” we ask questions, we call on volunteers and non-volunteers, check student work, we give quizzes, written work, we re-teach in another format, we are constantly searching for the proper “tool” that will help the student learn and be able to apply the concept.

Schools are complex entities, they attempt to build cultures of inquiry, cultures of collaboration, cultures of caring. The hierarchy can support inquiry-based school cultures. Charlotte Danielson’s other book, “Talk about Teaching: Leading Professional Conversation” explores the power dynamic in schools and how school leaders can engage in meaningful dialogues with teachers.

School leaders can observe lessons with the goal to evaluate by finding flaws or engage in a two-way dialogue with the teacher.

The chancellor has been emphasizing removing bias and culturally relevant-sustaining education they may remove obstacles to effective teaching and learning, and may not.

The most effective predictor of test results is parent education and income.

The New School Center for NYC Affairs study, “A Better Picture of Poverty” identifies in-school and out of school “poverty risk load factors.” Our current school management structure fails to deal with the social/emotional side of the equation, fails to address factors beyond the classroom that impact the student within the classroom.

Sean Reardon and his colleagues at Stanford have released a massive study, asking “how intertwined are racial segregation and economic inequality?” The study may enable us to more finely attune our approaches to improving academic outcomes in schools.

The de Blasio administration has been working with the teacher union to create collaborative, school-based strategies.

The Bronx Plan negotiated between the teacher union and the Department is designed reduce teacher attrition in the most at-risk schools as well as built stronger school cultures. (See description here)

Over 100 schools are part of the PROSE initiative, an opportunity to create school-based innovative programs that requires change to Department regulations or contract provisions. (See PROSE application here).

The council hearing was ironic, on one hand the # 2 at the Department described a process that can easily deteriorate into “test and punish” and at the same hearing students, teachers and school leaders in Consortium schools described in detail schools in which deep investigation leading to the production of a project reflecting the research instead of a single test. The process takes months of teacher-directed work and requires the student to defend their project before teachers and critical friends.

Should we push to expand the number of Consortium schools? Can the Consortium strategies be applied to elementary and middle schools? And, the elephant in the room, can you scale-up these concepts?

The Department seems to be in a schizophrenic cauldron. One part of the Department working with the union in creating bottom-up approaches to teaching and learning, another part reverting to the “test and punish,” testing-on-steroids approach to teaching and learning.

It will be interesting to see whether the Reardon data is applicable to New York City and what it tells us about our schools.

Data should drive policy: the question: whose data and whose interpretation of the data.

NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza: Assessing His Performance in a Mayoral Control Environment

Richard Carranza, the New York City school chancellor walks a tightrope; the leader of a 1.1 million student school district in a mayoral control city in which the mayor is running for president as the candidate furthest to the left. The mayor is appealing to Afro-American voters and the most progressive voters on the Democratic spectrum, his education policies, he hopes, are appealing to his potential voters.

Carranza has to juggle satisfying the political needs of his boss with his own educational philosophy.

CityandStateNY, a website reporting news online on a daily basis hosts an Education Summit every August, a keynote speaker, usually the city chancellor or the state commissioner and a number of panels that confront the issues expected in the upcoming year.

Last year Carranza, who had only been on the job a few months, gave a typical speech: Who am I? What do I believe? And, “I’m one of you;” a speech trying to connect with tens of thousands of school personnel and parents. A year later:  the agenda of the mayor has dominated the chancellor’s first year.

On Thursday Carranza returned to the Education Summit, reflected on his first year and laid out his agenda for the upcoming year, a mixture of continuing the mayor’s progressive agenda and his ideas; structural changes that I find troubling.

Listen to the chancellor speech here – about 35 minutes – I urge you to listen.

The dominant education issue last year was the segregated nature of the admission process for the Specialized High Schools, and the entrance examination, the Specialized High School Admissions Test that is required by state law. Last year at Stuyvesant High School only nine Afro-American students passed the entrance exam out of over 900 students who received acceptance offers. A year later the legislature has taken no action to change the exam and the issue continues to dominate the education debate.

The mayor/chancellor has avoided another issue. There are over 200 middle and high schools with entrance requirements: test scores, interviews, portfolios, all under the discretion of the chancellor. The students are far whiter and more middle class than the school system. The schools are extremely popular with progressive voter parents. The chancellor has taken no action to alter/reduce/eliminate the screens.

School integration: an Advisory School Diversity Task Force issued a report and the chancellor has accepted almost all of the recommendations. Three school districts will be implementing locally designed integration initiatives in September with four other districts investigating plans with modest funds supporting the efforts; nibbling around the edges of “the most segregated school district in the nation.”

The mayor and chancellor continue to juggle, supporting progressive policies and avoiding major initiatives that might antagonize progressive voters.

The chancellor’s equity agenda is progressive, and, controversial.

A $23 million implicit bias training program for all staff: will a few hours of a workshop make teachers more sensitive to their implicit biases? And, how do we know it?  Or, (my cynical side) just an appeal to the most progressive voters?

The chancellor has also adopted a state initiative: Culturally Responsive – Sustaining Education. The state describes CR-SE as,

The CR-S framework helps educators create student-centered learning environments that: affirm racial, linguistic, and cultural identities; prepare students for rigor and independent learning; develop students’ abilities to across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; and, empower students as agents of social change.

 Alert: the draft California Ethnic Studies Curriculum created a firestorm.

The [curriculum] has led to bitter debate in recent weeks over whether they veer into left-wing propaganda, and whether they are inclusive enough of Jews and other ethnic groups. Now, amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions.

The materials are unapologetically activist — and jargony. They ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice.”

Will CR-SE incorporate the New York Times 1619 Project , a detailed exploration of slavery in America, in my view a wonderful resource, or, stumble as the California Ethnic Studies curriculum?

I have no objection; in fact, I support these initiatives, if they are implemented in a sensible, collegial manner. If you read the Common Core State Standards you probably agree with them, the implementation was disastrous. I fear imposed checklists rather than school-developed implementation plans.

I favor targeted more school-based targeted interventions.

I’m a pragmatist: I suggest to the chancellor:

  • Twelve month school years from pre-K through the First Grade, ideally with the same teacher with a social worker assigned to a discrete number of classes.
  • Each staff member assigned to perhaps ten students as mentors for their entire time in middle and high schools.
  • Change the Fair Student Funding formula, at risk schools, defined by chronic absenteeism, disciplinary “incidents,” and student achievement, would be assigned guidance counselors and social workers apart from the standard budget allocations.

The most challenging schools are overwhelmed each and every day; disciplinary issues, parent issues, bureaucracy “demands;” are not alleviated by a myriad of “programs.”

School culture is the key to school success, schools accepting “ownership” of their own practice; I fear the chancellor thinks that “success” can be imposed from the caverns of Tweed.

The chancellor pointed to two new structural initiatives: Instructional Leadership Frameworks (ILF) and “Edustats.”

ILF appears to be attempting to align supervisory supports, from the chancellor to executive superintendents down through the ranks: sounds like a Danielson Frameworks for supervisors.

Currently the Department collects reams of school achievement data, and, much of the data is publicly available on the Department website.  Take a look at the school performance dashboard for one school here.

The chancellor introduced a new initiative: Edustats. What are “Edustats?” As I understood the chancellor’s description: multiple tests through the school year with prescriptions for targeted interventions; that’s right, more testing.  Schools have purchased these programs for decades, without any sustained impact. On August 8th the Department posted a number of high level Edustat positions and I assume a new section at the Department churning out tests and data-sets by classroom. Sigh!!!

Changing classroom practice rarely comes from being beaten into submission; changing classroom practice comes when school leaders and teachers, collectively, devise student-centered instructional practices with rigorous curriculum and supportive assistance from superintendents and the bureaucracy.

I hope I’m misreading the Carranza approach.