Tag Archives: Joel Klein

Should Superintendents or Principals Determine School Policies? A Chancellor’s District Model, Superintendents or Principal Autonomy?

Elizabeth A. Harris, in a NY Times article (“Little College Guidance: 500 High School Students Per Counselor“) writes about the challenges of the college application process and the lack of counselors to advise students,

While small private schools can often afford to provide their students with tremendous hand-holding, large public high schools across the country struggle with staggering ratios of students to guidance counselors. Nationally, that ratio is nearly 500 to 1, a proportion experts say has remained virtually unchanged for more than 10 years. And when it comes time to apply to college, all of the students need help at once.

There are two college counselors at Midwood for about 800 seniors each year, most of whom apply to college. The office’s support staff has been cut in recent years from five people to two.

Since the economic meltdown in 2008 the number of guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists in New York State has steadily declined. One solution is to require a guidance counselor to student ratio in each school

I was discussing the article with a principal, he responded, “If you require a ratio what does the principal cut, fewer art teachers, larger class size, shouldn’t the principal decide on the staffing requirements of the school?”

Principals are assessed by data, in elementary and middle schools grades on state tests and in high schools credit accumulation and graduation rates, do the pressures of achieving a “good grade” influence the decisions of the principal? Should I add a counselor and cut an English teacher? How does the principal weigh college counseling versus the other needs of the school?

Some schools have adopted an omnibus counseling system; the guidance counselor follows the student for four years, from the ninth through the twelfth grades, including college counseling, others argue that college counseling is highly specialized and requires specially trained counselors.

Should principals be the decision makers or should the superintendent impose decisions?

The role of superintendents traditionally has been to oversee and guide schools. Rudy Crew, the chancellor in the 90s created the Chancellor’s District, the fifty or so lowest achieving schools in the city were removed from the school districts and run directly by the chancellor. The Chancellor’s District was highly prescriptive, a longer school day and school year and the highly regarded, also highly controversial Success for All reading program in all the elementary schools; the superintendent produced color-coded, laminated manuals setting forth step by step procedures: how to run a fire drill, how to order books, a “how to” guide for every action of the principal.

The Chancellor’s District, disbanded by Joel Klein; was praised in a 2004 report by NYU,

A special district under direct control of the New York City schools chancellor made substantial improvements at some of the city’s worst public schools, according to a study by researchers at New York University.

Gains in reading scores outpaced similarly low-performing schools that remained in their local community districts, said the researchers’ report, which is to be issued today.

The special district, a grouping of troubled schools from around the city known as the Chancellor’s District, was created by Chancellor Rudy Crew in 1996 and operated through the 2002-03 school year.

”The Chancellor’s District intervention significantly increased teacher resources and per-student expenditure across the district’s schools and significantly increased the percentage of students meeting the standard on the fourth-grade state reading tests,” the report states

The Chancellor’s District has taken on an iconic aura, the path to improving low performing schools is a highly proscriptive, closely supervised approach, and the role of the principal is to carry out the directives of the superintendent. The superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer, the CEO and the principal the middle manager, the guiding principles of the school district should be set by the CEO and the twenty or thirty middle managers, the principals, carrying out the organizational goals set by the superintendent.

A decade later, Rudy Crew, the creator of the Chancellor’s District, warns that the path was ill-advised,

The architect of the city’s “Chancellor’s District,” a school improvement initiative that flooded low-performing schools with resources over a decade ago, said Wednesday his much-debated approach was “dead wrong” and warned current officials not to repeat his mistakes.

“When we did this in the Chancellor’s District, I think the framework is dead wrong,” said Crew. The structure, he said, was too one-size-fits-all.

“Everybody got the same memo, everybody got the same dollars, everybody got the same requirements and then you were sort of off to the races to do the best that you could with what you had,” Crew added.

Over the last decade the enthusiasm with the superintendent as CEO waned.

Joel Klein collapsed the 32 school districts into ten regions that included high schools, a Klein iteration of the Chancellor’s District. Klein became disillusioned with the Regional model, he moved to Autonomy Zones, to Empowerment to Networks and became enthralled by perhaps the most influential book of the last decade, William Ouchi’s “Schools That Work (2003).

Ouchi’s central recommendations are expressed in seven “keys to success” that, if followed, will make any school successful. They are:

1. Every principal is an entrepreneur
2. Every school controls its own budget
3. Everyone is accountable for student performance and for budgets
4. Everyone delegates authority to those below
5. There is a burning focus on school achievement
6. Every school is a community of learners
7. Families have real choices among a variety of unique schools.

The main contribution of Ouchi’s research is that centralized school bureaucracies are detrimental to individual school success. This finding extends the management revolution launched by Deming and others in business and industry into the field of public education. This revolution has led to the “flattening” of hierarchical organizations, with the movement of decision-making to operational levels much closer to clients and consumers.

The Department leadership programs committed to the Ouchi-Klein model, the “principal as entrepreneur,” principals ran their own schools with a focus on data and accountability.

Superintendents, with experience as teachers and principals, see themselves as leaders who have moved up the ladder to their present permission. Shouldn’t they be able to intervene in schools? Shouldn’t they be able to both supervise and guide principals and ultimately have the authority to direct principals to implement staffing and policy decisions?

On the other hand the top-down superintendent as CEO model has not raised achievement, for decades superintendents closely supervised schools, while scores may have increased in some districts the school system stumbled for decades.

Should we return to a model that empowers superintendents or continue to give wider discretion to principals?

Next blog: The new School Management Model: Farina 1.0

Spinning the Teacher Contract: How Manipulating the Media Controls Public Opinion, the “Message”, and, Elections.

A New York Daily News editorial panning the UFT teacher contract avers,

Bloomberg won a landmark reform that gave principals power to hire teachers as they saw fit, not according strictly to seniority. No longer were longtime teachers able to walk into a school and demand to bump someone who had been on the payroll for less time.

A canard.

Back in 2005 when the contract was negotiated the union tried to find one teacher who was bumped by a more senior teacher – without success. Sixty percent of schools had already opted for the School-Based Option Staffing Plan, the principal and a committee of teachers selected new teachers, seniority was not a factor, and, the new plan, called Open Market, allowed any teacher to transfer to any school, regardless of seniority, without the approval of the principal of the sending school. The hundred or so teachers who had received seniority transfers were replaced by thousands of teachers jumping to other schools, commonly from lower achieving schools to high achieving schools. The lowest achieving schools tend to have the least experienced teachers and serve as training grounds for teachers who are poached by higher achieving schools.

A terrible policy.

I’m sure the editorial page writer simply reviewed the stories from 2005, the spin from Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg.

Diane Ravitch bemoans that too many Americans, apparently including the Daily News editorial writers, get their “news” from Glenn Beck rather than legitimate news sources,

… we have lost many of our well-educated, cultured, well-informed thinkers. Often they have been replaced by shock jocks, ranting talk show hosts, and an entire cable channel devoted to trashing liberals, liberal social programs, and labor unions.

Influencing public opinion is an art and a science, whether you call it public relations, communications, spin, strategy or branding.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the title of the centerpiece of Obama legislation contains two words, “Affordable” and “Care,” both intended garner pubic support; republicans have successfully branded the law as Obamacare, a pejorative term. Every republican speaks from the same script and poll after poll finds that a majority of American oppose the law,

According to a CNN/ORC International survey, 57% of adults nationwide oppose the measure, compared to 39% supporting it….

Forty-seven percent of respondents in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey said they would most likely support a congressional candidate who advocated repealing the health care law, compared to 45% saying they would most likely back a candidate who called for keeping and fixing the measure.

Republicans are winning the battle for the hearts, minds and votes, of the American people over the Affordable Care Act issue; the bottom line is that more Americans tune in to the Glenn Becks than read Paul Krugman.

In October NYS Commissioner of Education John King began a PTA-sponsored listening tour around the state in Poughkeepsie. The meeting was a disaster – a boisterous audience shouting down the commissioner – all captured on U-tube – with over 50,000 hits over the following weeks.

Poughkeepsie was the wrong place to begin the tour, an all-white audience in a city with a troubled racial past, and the format – the commissioner speaking for over an hour – the wrong format; a Q & A with respected local leaders at which the commissioner would have shone.

Over the past few years I have asked audience after audience how they get their news, from print media, aka newspapers, or TV or online. For audiences under 40 online is far in the lead, hardly anyone under forty reads newspapers.

I asked a manager of a rap artist how he decides which cities to visit on tours – he buys data on downloads of the artist’s music by city.

Social media rules.

Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg wanted to pass legislation in Albany to eliminate seniority in excessing/layoff determinations, the public reason, to get rid of “bad” teachers, the real agenda to weaken the union. The seniority issue: “bad” senior teachers bumping “enthusiastic” young teachers, a strategy to win public support.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the political machines, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, elected candidates and party loyalty determined votes well into the twentieth century – you voted democrat or republican regardless of the candidate. Newspaper endorsements influenced voters, and ethnic politics was a constant.

Today with elected officials looked upon with disdain, voter turnouts at all-time lows, newspaper readership declining drastically, social media is relied upon as a source of reliable information, Marshall McLuhan is correct, “The medium is the message.”

“It’s on the Internet – it must be right.”

Michael Bloomberg had the perfect experience to be the Mayor of New York – he had mastered the art and science of communications – the creator of Bloomberg News – he totally understands the power of controlling the message – from the press release to the location of the event to who stands where on the stage – to the timing of the event – he controlled the outcome of the news – the populace had confidence in the mayor. His only stumble was education – he was outmaneuvered by the former carpenter and leader of the teacher union – who has a top-notch media communications team.

If John King held his first listening tour meeting at a venue with an integrated audience, if the questioners were highly regarded and highly recognizable public figures, if the format allowed for an exchange – if opponents or critics had an opportunity to be heard – the current sweeping criticism of the Common Core would have been muted.

The Daily News editorial also whines about changes in the school day,

Bloomberg added 37½ minutes to the teachers’ schedules for use, usually to help struggling students. De Blasio switched to using the time for “professional development” and “parental engagement.”

Bloomberg “negotiated” adding time to the school day in exchange for a substantial raise – a time for money swap. The Daily News ignores the impact of principal-teacher committees selecting school staffs. From my experience teachers felt responsible for the colleagues they selected – the process encouraged collaboration and a sense of ownership – if our kids don’t do well it’s because we, all of us, didn’t select the right teachers.

Since the change in the contract only principals select staffs – teacher attrition rates have remained high – the number of teachers who have tenure extended has soared – without any noticeable spike in student achievement.

Are principals picking the wrong teachers? Are principals failing to train newer teachers? Are school cultures increasingly toxic? All of the above?

From Google to Facebook to every high functioning major corporation collaboration among teams of employees are the model – perhaps the Department, and the Daily News, can learn a little from Sergey Brin.

Spin without substance ultimately runs out of energy and credibility, unfortunately the damage is done and kids only get one chance.

Does deBlasio Need to Rekindle the Reading Wars? Lucy Calkins Re-Ignites the “Whole Language” versus “Phonics” Battles.

As the seemingly endless mayoral campaign plodded from panel to panel it became increasingly clear that candidate de Blasio, on education issues, was the furthermost to the left: he vigorously opposed co-locations of charter schools in public school buildings, he was cool to the idea of charter schools generally, he was openly critical of Eva Moskowitz, while the other candidates didn’t disagree, they were just more “thoughtful” and less didactic.

Four months into his term de Blasio has been battered: his plan for a small tax on earners of over $500,000 a year shot down by the governor and a five million dollar media blitz and $800,000 in contributions to Cuomo resulted in legislation to force co-locations of charter schools – a resounding defeat for the new guy on the block, a defeat engineered by his “friend” in the governor’s Albany mansion.

For the mayor the single issue is Universal Pre-Kindergarten, an immense program with many pitfalls to be averted. Can the department find adequate classroom space? Can the department match seats to needs? Can the department find and train appropriately certified teachers? Can the department stock the classrooms with age-appropriate materials? Can the department and the city link a wide range of social and health services to the kids? A Herculean task and a task that must shine to restore the glitter to the mayor’s image.

Other major initiatives are on hold: the reorganization of the network-based management system, the A-F School Progress Reports, the Choice versus Neighborhood Schools concept, the single goal is to assure that Universal Pre-Kindergarten will be a smashing success.

And then Chancellor Farina announced Lucy was back.

For decades the battle over the teaching of reading, aka, The Reading Wars, have pitted supporters of “whole language” against the supporters of “phonics,” Research Professor Peter Gray in “Freedom to Learn” describes the differing positions,

In teaching reading, the progressive [whole language] educator might focus on ways to help beginners recognize and thereby read whole words from the outset and allow them to figure out or guess at other words from the context (such as from pictures and the meaning of adjacent words), so they are reading for meaning right from the beginning. In contrast, the traditionalist might start with lessons on letter recognition and the relation of letters to sounds (phonics) before moving on to whole words and sentences. The process of reading requires the decoding of letters into sounds, and the traditionalist teaches this process explicitly before becoming concerned with meaning.

Today, the majority (though not all) of the experts who have examined the data have declared that the wars are over—phonics has won. The data seem clear. Overall, children who are taught phonics from the beginning become better readers, sooner, than those who are taught by whole-word or whole-language methods. The learning is still slow and tedious, but not as slow and tedious for phonics learners as for those taught by other methods.

Kathleen Porter-McGee, a widely respected scholar and frequent writer about the teaching of reading also pans the Calkins’ methodology,

Not only is this approach [Lucy Catkins’ Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop] widely used by U.S. educators (for ages it was required by the New York City Department of Education and is still widely used today in Gotham schools), but it is perhaps the most egregious example of a content-free, text-neutral, skills-focused version of reading instruction. Students in such classrooms don’t even have the benefit of reading shared or thoughtfully sequenced texts, let alone a thoughtful, coherent knowledge base.

Joel Klein, an attorney, hired Diana Lamm as his deputy under the initial department reorganization, with ten mega-regional superintendents, Lamm imposed the whole language teaching strategy, after Lamm left Klein promoted Carmen Farina, also a devotee of whole language instruction. Over the years Lucy Calkins trained over 10,000 New York Teachers and her Writing Project received millions of dollars in contracts.

The Reading Wars raged with Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute and Diane Ravitch pitted against Calkins and Farina. A lengthy piece in New York Magazine recounts the battle,

Sol Stern of the conservative Manhattan Institute and the education historian Diane Ravitch berated Balanced Literacy’s whole-language roots. “Many of the programs and methods now being crammed down the teachers’ throats have no record of success,” wrote Stern, “and are particularly ill suited for disadvantaged minority children. In fact, a cabal of progressive educators chose them for ideological reasons, in total disregard of what the scientific evidence says about the most effective teaching methods—particularly in the critically important area of early reading.”

By the spring of 2004, Diana Lam was gone, but Joel Klein went out of his way to defend Balanced Literacy. He promoted Carmen Fariña, a respected Brooklyn superintendent who had used Balanced Literacy as a teacher and principal. Fariña proudly took up the cause.

After Farina left in one of the many leadership shifts Eric Nadelstern took the education helm and the system moved to an affinity network model. Schools could choose their network; “Calkins” schools could cluster in a network, devotees of phonics or other approaches in other networks. With adoption of the Common Core the department recommended methodologies and Calkins was not selected.

With the selection of Farina as chancellor could the resurrection of Calkins be far behind?

Patrick Wall, in Chalkbeat recounts Lucy’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes,

… in January, Calkins’ longtime friend Carmen Fariña, who has called Calkins her mentor, was appointed head of the city school system. The two met privately at the Department of Education headquarters after Fariña became schools chancellor.

Around that time, Calkins wrote to Fariña urging her to resist the curriculum guidelines written by Coleman and his team, Calkins said in her speech.

“Please, Carmen,” Calkins said she appealed to Fariña, “Protect the Common Core from the documents surrounding it, that are people’s interpretations of it.”

Now, Fariña has the power to reimagine the way educators across the city teach reading and writing in the age of the Common Core. Already, the chancellor has promised a top-to-bottom review of the city’s recommended curriculums. And to lead a citywide Common Core literacy training next month, her administration brought in Calkins’ group.

For her part, Calkins seems confident that her group will play a larger role under Chancellor Fariña in helping schools meet the new standards.

“Yes, the city’s moving in our direction,” Calkins said during an interview in February. “Obviously.”

The Reading War has roots in the 1950’s (“Why Johnnie Can’t Read”) and the skirmishes have continued ever since. In spite the reams of critical research whole language instruction continues to stake out a loyal and dedicated following, and an equally vociferous opposition.

As de Blasio struggles to regain his positive public image, as the mayor pumps up support for Universal Pre- Kindergarten, as the laser-like focus of the administration on making sure that pre-kindergarten is a glowing success, does de Blasio need to fan the embers of the Reading Wars?

Fanned embers end up in conflagrations, to raging forest fires, a disaster for an administration looking to find their mojo.

The mayor needs victories, not scrums over how to teach reading.

Let’s Assign the Teachers in the ATR Pool to Classrooms Now!! 1200 Teachers Should Have Permanent Assignments Teaching Kids Every Day.

Once upon a time the news side and the editorial side of newspapers were totally separate – now only fond memories. The NY Daily News has run two articles “reporting” on plans to dissolve the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, the articles (here and here) in reality are editorials masked as news articles panning the efforts.

Teachers have been excessed from schools for decades – schools lost funding, lost student enrollment and schools closed. The teachers were simply placed into others schools in the district, the system did not dissolve in chaos and confusion, the excessed teachers ranged from teachers in the system for a year to two to senior teachers.

As part of the 2005 union contract agreement teachers received substantial raises, and, the department changed the system – rather than assigning excessed teachers to other schools the department placed them in a “pool,” the teachers must seek their own jobs on the Open Market, the department’s internal job seeking site, and in the meantime are assigned to a different school each week. Joel Klein, the chancellor trashed teachers in the ATR pool and vigorously sought legislation to lay off, in effect fire, teachers in the ATR pool after a fixed amount of time.

Teachers in the ATR pool are observed by ATR field supervisors and rated as are all other teachers. No surprise, they fall on a bell-shaped curve – 2/3 range from C- to C+ … Unfortunately the new mayor and chancellor have “bought into” the canard that principals should have the right to hire ALL teachers. The 2.8% of teachers who received an unsatisfactory rating in June, 2013 were all hired by principals, the 30-40% of teachers who had their probation extended were hired by their principals, the 40% of teachers who leave before five years were hired by their principals, the 70% of teachers in high needs middle schools who leave after three years were hired by their own principals.(See “Who Stays, Who Leaves” Study)

Looks like principals don’t do such a good job of hiring…

1200 teachers = a hundred million dollars.

The department has been wasting a hundred million dollars not to improve the school system – the ATR system is a political ploy to rid the system of seniority and tenure, an attack on the union that costs the city 100 million a year – not only disgraceful, but cruel.

Among the 1200 teachers in the ATR pool are over 200 guidance counselors.

Why not assign them to suspension centers and transfer high schools to counsel at-risk kids?

How about assigning them to schools with high percentages of kids from shelters?

How about assigning teachers to schools with large percentages of high needs kids to work one-on-one? Actually tutoring kids…

With the wave of a pen 1200 educators could actually be working with kids.

If 1% or 5% or 10% are inadequate do what management is supposed to do … document, offer assistance, assign a mentor, and, take actions to dismiss the teacher, it’s called due process – the rule of law.

I was speaking with two elementary school teachers … they knew I was a “union activist,” they said to tell the powers that be that in next contract they want money and respect.

For a dozen years there has been a growing denigration of teachers, nice words and disrespectful actions. Teachers feel beaten down, unappreciated, and frustrated.

The abolition of the ATR Pool would start by saving 100 million; just as important it would symbolize a school leadership willing to roll back the ludicrous policies of the old guard.

When the department reorganized the GED programs and other parts of the alternative high school program (District 79) the department and the union negotiated expedited procedures for the placement of staff) … the same can be done for ATR teachers.

Let’s get started redesigning the school system for the benefit of the kids.

Will the New Mayor/Chancellor Feign a New Path or Offer True Collaboration? Can the Union Move from Confrontation to Collaboration?

The announcement of the new chancellor is imminent … a few days.

Mayor de Blasio, the new chancellor, the teacher and supervisor union presidents Mulgrew and Logan and recognizable parent leaders will be standing on the podium. The newly selected chancellor will use the occasion to set a new path, the “right” statements about working together, the required platitudes, a new direction for a new administration.

Within a week or two the mayor and the chancellor will make “bold” announcements turning around a few of the Bloomberg initiatives. As I have written previously, maybe a freeze on co-locations and the end of the ATR pool, a number of concrete symbolic steps that tell the workforce we intend to turnaround the twelve years of Bloomberg.

Does turnaround mean devolving to the pre-Bloomberg past or setting a new path to the future?

For teachers the past is appealing, it’s familiar: geographic school districts, powerful superintendents, policy set from Central, a paramilitary structure, and a noblesse oblige attitude toward teachers. The Klein administration came to power and imposed a new structure; moving from 32 community school districts to five regional K-12 regions; over the years the Bloomberg regency morphed to four “knowledge” networks, to quasi-independent empowerment schools, eliminated the position of deputy chancellor for teaching and learning and established sixty affinity-based 25 school networks, it was dizzying. Bloomberg/Klein were purposefully disruptive, the goal to destroy the past, in essence “burn the books.” burn the memories.

Where will the new chancellor take us?

Mike Petrilli, a the incoming president of a the Fordham Foundation, a conservative think tank, in the NY Daily News, urges,

… de Blasio needs to come to grips with a simple truth: Any gains provided by a massive new investment in preschool will quickly fade away if he doesn’t also tackle New York City’s mediocre elementary schools.

What makes them mediocre? It’s the curriculum, stupid — or the lack thereof. When Bloomberg and Joel Klein exploded on the scene in the early 2000s, they were famously agnostic about what kids actually learn in the classroom day-to-day. To Klein’s credit, he eventually came to see the errors of his ways, and in his last years as chancellor he embraced the Core Knowledge program — a coherent, content-rich curriculum that is a model for what kids in New York, and nationwide, need if they are going to become strong readers.

What’s so special about content knowledge? As scholar and Core Knowledge creator E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has argued for 30 years — and as more recent cognitive science has confirmed — knowledge is the building block of literacy. Once students learn to “decode” the English language, their ability to comprehend what they read is all about what they know.

Should the new chancellor “require” an elementary school curriculum, be it Core Knowledge or another curriculum? How many decisions should come from on high? If curriculum is decided by the school district leaders, if classroom instruction methodology is also mandated, as it is in requiring the Danielson Frameworks, do we squelch innovation?

Should the new core principles be developed with the participation of the stakeholders?

Should the new school district leader, as Joel Klein did, embrace a curriculum for the entire city? Bring coherence; create a rigid Chancellor’s District approach for every school?

Or, is Eric Nadelstern right? “The more authority you share, the more influential you become.”

Jonathan Molofsky, a nationally recognized professional developer avers, “The answers are in the room.” The answers are not in the distant aeries of Boards of Education, the answers are not in selecting the “right” reading program or in hiring the “right” consultant, the answers in are in the hearts and minds of each and every teacher. The challenge is to move teachers from benign followers of the ukases from on high to instructional partners, partners with colleagues working under the direction of a strong leader.

Randi Weingarten, in the Winter, 2013-14 issue of the American Educator writes,

Students and educators benefit greatly from effective partnerships between teacher unions and school districts … unfortunately, without partners on both sides of the labor-management equation willing to put students in the forefront of their concerns, significant progress will be impeded, if not impossible.

Frankly collaboration is harder than confrontation. Many people are more comfortable with the us-versus- them posture … While some see collaboration as capitulation what it does is the seeding of trust and good will, not the ceding of authority and responsibility. It’s not easy, but it is effective.

For some inside the ranks of the union, collaboration does mean capitulation, and the firmest defenders of every comma in the union contract are frequently the union activists.

Will the union leadership willing to negotiate a new contract based on collaboration?

There is abundant research to support a culture of collaboration. Glen Anrig in “Cultivating Collaboration: The Science behind Thriving Labor-Management Relationships,” points us to a study by the highly regarded Chicago Consortium on School Research,

“… the most effective schools, based on test score improvement over time, …developed an unusually high degree of ‘relational trust’ among stakeholders [and] developed five key organizational features,

1. A coherent instructional guidance system, in which the curriculum, study materials and assessments are coordinated within and across grades with meaningful teacher involvement;

2. An effective system to improve instructional capacity, including making teachers’ classroom work public for examination by colleagues and external consultants, and to enable ongoing support and guidance for teachers;

3. Strong parent-community school ties, with an integrated support network for students;

4. A student-centered learning climate that identifies and responds to difficulties any child may be experiencing; and.

5. Leadership focused on cultivating teachers, parents and community members, so that they become invested in sharing overall responsibility for the school’s improvement.”

The tendency will be to follow the lead of John King, the State Commissioner, and issue regulations and requirements and press releases and declare victory, to see the principals and teachers and their organizations as “special interests” and simply move forward, after all that’s what school district leaders have been taught to do.

There is an opportunity in New York City to do what no chancellor has done, to change the direction of a school system with the union as a partner. It is risky for the union.

Perhaps begin by carving out a space – a collaboration zone with a “thin” contract?

After the press conferences fade and the initial elation ebbs, will the stakeholders engage? Will the new chancellor seek to engage with the union? Will the union take the risk of dragging along recalcitrant members?

From Washington to state capitals to Boards of Education, from the Broad Academy model, from Los Angeles to New York City the script has been the same: school choice, aka charter schools, school closings, accountability, aka testing and evaluating teachers based on dense algorithms, the Common Core, the denigration of senior teachers, aka Teach For America, and, generally viewing teachers and their unions as obstacles to progress.

Will de Blasio and his new chancellor break the mold and will the unions take the risk of moving to a collaborative model?

A new mayor with new ideas offers the possibility of institutional change, offers the possibility of creating new school cultures; windows for change are only open for a while.

FLASH: Newspapers and twitter announce de Blasio has chosen Carmen Farina as the new chancellor.

Advice to deB from a Career Teacher …

(Marc Korashan is a frequenter commenter on this blog, a career teacher of students with emotional disabilities and a union activist.)

The entrenched leadership of the school system is all about test scores and little else. The Danielson frameworks are being turned into checklists and the “talent coaches” are pushing hard for the “gotcha” mentality that is the hallmark of all educational reform since No Child Left Behind. (See the NYTimes piece on the Bumpy Start for the New Teacher Evaluation system where only the talent coach is critical of a minor detail in practice that may or may not be applicable to the students in that class).

The real issue as Ed in the Apple points out is changing the culture. This requires reform above (changes in the evaluation process) and reform below. Principals should be empowered and required to begin working with teams in their schools to rewrite the Danielson rubrics to make them more objective and clearly focused on teacher behavior and not so much on student responses. Principals need to be required to provide SAVE rooms and establish meaningful discipline policies in every school so that we can reach the students who are failing and acting out in class. Guidance services need to be in place for students as well as families that are struggling.

The best way to shake up the culture in the schools may be to disempower principals. We can move away from the nineteenth century model that currently describes principals as all knowing and all powerful and move to a professional system where schools are run at the local level by a team of parents, teachers, and administration who must work together by consensus and receive help from the central bureaucracy. This is what SLTs were supposed to do before Klein imposed his corporate model (Every principal a CEO, see William Ouchi, “Making Schools Work“). Empowering school teams also empowers parents and teachers and brings more expertise to bear on the problems in an individual school than any top down management system can.

The question is does deB have the courage to try a truly progressive approach to remake the system?

Black Smoke, White Smoke: Waiting for Mayor-elect de Blasio to Select the New Chancellor.

Thousands of teachers and parents huddle outside of the de Blasio residence each evening staring at the chimney – will the smoke be white or black? Will a chancellor be selected?

Not really – although it seems that way.

For fifteen years New York City has not had an educator as a chancellor.

Harold Levy was an attorney – within days of his selection he raced out to a district in Brooklyn to congratulate a superintendent, the state test scores were announced and the scores soared, of course, no one bothered to tell Levy that the five lowest performing schools were moved to the Chancellor’s District – addition by subtraction.

When Joel Klein was selected by Mayor Bloomberg the response was, “Who?”

At a recent retrospective interview with David Steiner Klein lauded himself. Fair Student Funding and Open Market transfers achieved the opposite of the intent – rather than driving experienced teachers to high needs schools it facilitated higher achieving teachers to move to higher achieving schools.

In the last decade more than half of middle school teachers have left within their first three years.
(Read “Why They Leave” Report here)

Klein alienated teachers and supervisors, totally disempowered parents and seems have seen disruption as a goal.

Unfortunately, to quote Woody Guthrie, “From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,” we can’t find a urban superintendent who is not a clone of the Duncan-Broad playbook: school closings, Common Core, testing, testing, more testing, test score-driven accountability, anti-tenure, merit pay, etc.

de Blasio’s campaign was the antithesis of the big city superintendents.

In city after city the reform mayor and the reform superintendent tried to drive the flavor of the month down the throats of parents and teachers.

The editorial writers look for answers: should we emulate Finland (with the population of Brooklyn), or, South Korea, or Poland? Today’s editorial in the New York Times looks around the world for “solutions” to mediocre PISA scores, and Diane Ravitch chides the editorial writers,

The Times blames teachers for the U.S. scores on PISA. And once again, the Times assumes that the scores of 15-year-olds on a standardized test predict the future of our economy, for which there is no evidence at all.

Where does de Blasio find this Moses-Muhammad-Christ-like figure?

David Tyack and Larry Cuban in Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform (1995) warn,

Why were the start from scratch innovations proposed by outsiders mostly short-lived? Innovators outside the schools who wanted to reinvent education were often skilled in publicity and the politics of promising and claimed to use the latest models of rational planning but they rarely factored into their plans a sophisticated understanding of the school as an institution or insight into the culture of teachers. … Outsiders who tried to reinvent schooling rarely understood the everyday lives of teachers, their practices, beliefs and sources of frustration and satisfaction.

Mayor-elect de Blasio is entering the mayoralty with wonderful approval numbers,

The poll shows that 73 percent of city residents, across all demographics, are optimistic about the next four years, and 65 percent of New Yorkers say they think the new mayor will make substantial changes in the way the city operates.

de Blasio needs a chancellor with equivalent popularity ratings among parents and teachers. A school system with large percentages of teachers leaving, a school system populated by teachers who feel unappreciated, a school district leader who appears aloof, or worse, who appears to be an enemy, will never gain the respect of teachers and supervisors.

de Blasio needs a chancellor who both respects parents and is respected by parents; not only the middle class activists of Brownstone Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, de Blasio needs a chancellor who can relate to the parents who have been disrespected. Parents in the poorest neighborhoods who worry about putting food on the table and paying the rent.

de Blasio needs a chancellor who can walk the hard scrabble streets of the South Bronx, of Rockaway, of East New York, who can invigorate, who can give hope to those who have had little hope.

We need a chancellor who understands that teachers buy coats for the kids huddling in thin jackets, who too frequently are the only consistent parents in the lives of kids. A chancellor who has visited homeless shelters, a chancellor who parents and teachers feel is in their corner.

It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had a chancellor we can be proud of.

A Review: “The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

Jay-Z, A-Rod, and Diane! Superstars have instantly identifiable one-word names. Who would have guessed that a 75 year-old historian would seize the social media cyber world? With a dozen blogs and fifty tweets a day, with tens of thousands of followers Diane Ravitch has been the stalwart, the voice of reason in a sea of education critics.

We live in a world of advocacy research. We know the result of the research by the sponsor of the study. If The New Teacher Project, or the Gates Foundation sponsor a research project, the result will support the Duncan (de)form agenda; even in the word of academe we know what Eric Hanushek or Jay Greene on one side and Jesse Rothstein on the other are going to conclude. There is no middle ground.

Dr. Ravitch’s latest book, her tenth, could have been titled, “The Great School Wars, Part 2,” instead, “Reign of Error, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

I frequently pull my 1974 copy of ”The School Wars” off my shelf, with a full page photo of Diane, to review the battles over the schools through history.

The “purpose” of “Reign of Error” is laid out in the opening paragraph,

“The purpose of this book is to answer four questions.
First, is American education in crisis?
Second, is American education failing or declining?
Third, what is the evidence for the reforms now being promoted by the federal government and adopted by many state.
Fourth, what should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children”.

The book is a work of scholarship, every claim is footnoted and the forty-one charts present evidence, not “evidence” from biased studies, the evidence that Diane presents, the facts, are not in dispute.

An evidence-based book is a shining light in a world of “Waiting for Superman” movies or sleazy accusations from Campbell Brown. From the US Department of Education to the National Governors Association to State legislatures education policy is based on a “hope and a prayer” rather than evidence.

Dr. Ravitch is a thorn in the side of the rich and powerful – she insists on proof.

In chapter after chapter she challenges unproven claims, charter schools, high stakes testing, principal-teacher accountability, 24/7 test prep driven instruction, vouchers, Value-Added Modeling (VAM), she asks, again and again, where is the evidence?

She challenges the assault on public dollars – the movement from publicly funded public schools to moving public dollars to the private side, the support for for-profit charter schools and the enormous costs of creating and supporting high stakes testing; highly profitable cyber schools, attempts to replace school staffs with automated software. Ravitch exposes, to use a harsh but apt term, the rape of public education.

Ravitch is neither on the left or the right, in fact, these days it is hard to define the left and the right. The Tea Party conservatives and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) both see Ravitch as an enemy.

Diane is a centrist, she supports what can be best called the best of the past, be it John Dewey or Maria Montessori.

“Genuine school reform,” Ravitch concludes, “must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the human person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of punishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collaboration and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and local communities.”

I finished the book on an intellectual high – how could anyone not read the “Reign of Error” and be convinced of the idiocy of the current destructive policies? Yet, Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz and Arne Duncan continue to badger and threaten and bluster.

Will Diane turnaround a decade of failed, selfish policies?

I hope the “Reign of Error” is a beginning of a new era in education.