Tag Archives: John Hopkins

New York State Tip-Toes Toward a Measured School Opening with Significant Local Input and a Long List of Unanswered Questions.

As the President and the Secretary of Education call for a full school reopening, with threats aimed at states that are more cautious, the fifty states and 14,000 school districts consider the options.

John Hopkins University posted a reopening policy tracker, a user-friendly source that enables the user to click on every state and organization and view whatever documents they posted.  Impressive!!

For example, see the Texas plan here and the New York University, Guidance on Culturally-Responsive Sustaining School Openings here.

New York State is complicated and confusing. The governor, who was granted wide-ranging emergency powers by the legislature appointed a “Reimaging Education Task Force” and, at daily press conferences emphasized again and again that he will decide on whether or not schools re-open. The chancellor reminded us that the State Constitution places education under the leadership of the Board of Regents.

The State Commissioner, after a number of regional meetings with representatives from across the states, presented the state plan to the Board of Regents. See plan here

A few hours later the governor held his press briefing and laid out the data points required for school reopening, by region. The specifics of the plan will be determined by the school district, and approved by State Education Department (SED) and the governor. The Board of Regents and the governor seem to be somewhat in conflict: does the governor decide on the “health and safety” and State Ed on the education plan?

Watch the governor’s press conference here.

The governor made it clear, abundantly clear, that the first week in August he will determine “go/no-go” based on data points by state region.

Later in the day the NYS Department of Health released a 23-page “Guidelines for School Re-Opening” here,

New York City has released a detailed plan, very detailed, planning for a hybrid reopening and schools will select from a number of school scheduling models. See models here.

In New York City any parent can opt for full remote.

In spite of trepidation, parents and teachers are nervous, concerned; perhaps fearful;  the state is inching closer and closer to a re-opening with the details left to local school districts.

For parents and teachers the overriding issue is safety.

  • Can meaningful instruction take place in an environment with social distancing and mask wearing?  Can you actually enforce the rules with younger children?  In many schools only small percentages of parents returned surveys, will parents abide by the staggered school schedules?  Will the staggered school schedules reduce attendance?
  • Can schools actually enforce daily temperature taking at entry? Can schools clean using appropriate cleansers every day?
  • What are the protocols if a staff member, student or family member of a student tests positive?
  • Will testing be made readily available to staff members?
  • When will the “accommodation” guidelines/application (request to remain fully “remote”) be available for staff?
  • What happens if many more staffer members apply then are required?
  • Who funds required protective personal equipment (PPE)?
  • Are there plans for childcare for staffs?

Who answers these questions?  For many (most? all?), the answers will be made at the local level; with 700 school districts in New York State the burden on smaller school districts will be overwhelming. The larger urban districts are facing severe budget cuts; will they have the dollars to fund the additional safety requirements?

To remain fully remote when the contagion rates are low and declining is difficult to defend. One outstanding question is how you define “safe for children, families and staff.”

To the question of school reopening Michael Mulgrew, the leader of the UFT, the New York City teachers union gave a “qualified yes.”

Schools can reopen, but only when they are safe for students, their families, and the staff.

The current proposed reopening plans for New York City public schools – based on state and CDC recommendations – call for no more than 9-12 people in the average classroom, meaning that most schools will have to create cohorts of students who alternate between in-class and remote learning. Everyone in school will be masked, and there will also have to be extensive cleaning, testing, and contact-tracing protocols.

All of the scheduling plans are complicated to implement and present logistical challenges for working parents, but we believe a blended learning model is the best option under the circumstances. The (New York City) Department of Education is working with principals to develop more detailed plans, particularly the best instructional strategies for the most vulnerable students.

Mulgrew is correct: the area that has been neglected, sorely neglected is the question of instruction

Eric Nadelstern, a former deputy chancellor, reminds us,

Eric Nadelstern | July 8, 2020

The DOE plan for reopening schools has tackled the question as if it is a managerial problem rather than an instructional one. The first problem that demands solution is which instructional approaches can be equally effective if students are in school, online or a hybrid of the two as pandemic safety will require at different times during the COVID crisis. Once determined, then the managerial issues fall into place.

Should the leadership at the state and local levels have explored the most effective remote and/or hybrid models before determining the questions of the models?  The answer is obvious

For better or worse the education decisions (scheduling models, curriculum, etc.) will be made at the local level.

While the fog is lifting the questions still far outnumber the answers.

Chancellor Carranza’s Theory of Change: Create a New Research-Based Urban Education Paradigm or Implement Proven Education Programs?

The new chancellor has been skipping from school to school for a month: the obligatory meet and greet new chancellor tour; heavily scripted trips around the city, the Sherpas arranging carefully controlled media availability, meetings with community and political leaders, lots of pictures with kids and the smiling chancellor. I had an opportunity to tag along on one these tours in the past: you could sniff the aroma of fresh paint, the custodian touched up the school the day before the visit, the student work on the bulletin boards all dated the day before the visit, the obligatory walk-through the day before by the superintendent to make sure everyone was on their best behavior as the chancellor smiles and shakes hands his inbox piles up with folder after folder.

Inbox folders: Specialized HS Options, Diversity (Note: NEVER use the words integration, or, heavens forbid, segregation), Suspensions, Renewal Schools, Fair Student Funding formula, UFT contract negotiations, ATRs, Management structure, Political relationships, Media relationships and more.

Will the chancellor’s management style be to respond to criticism, or, create his own agenda? His predecessor responded to criticism by creating a “program,” with dollars and a press release attached and move on to the next issue. The one initiative that she created, Renewal Schools, has been subject to constant criticism.

Many school and school district leaders follow a triage management philosophy; running from school to school, from problem to problem pouring water on the flames; unfortunately, they sometimes pour from the wrong bucket, pouring gasoline on the problem

After a raucous meeting at an Upper West Side white parents spoke out against a school integration plan, the chancellor, at 1 am retweeted, 

,”WATCH: Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools,”

The next day the mayor was asked to respond,

“I don’t think he at all intends to vilify anyone — he’s not that type of person,” said de Blasio. “This was his own personal voice … I might phrase it differently.”

At a school visit the next day the chancellor responded to reporters,

“The criticism of my predecessor Chancellor Fariña was that she didn’t do anything about this,” he said. “And here I am in my first month actually engaging in this conversation.”

“Let’s all take a breath,” Carranza said. “Let’s let communities come forward with what their solutions could be. Let’s give the space to our CECs to lead those conversations.”

The following day  the chancellor called the plan “very modest, quite frankly,” and a few days later,  “Nowhere in there (the District Three Middle School Integration Plan) are they talking about some of the very drastic things like busing or like rezoning or any of those things. I think it’s a modest conversation to be had.”

Welcome to the Big Apple.

A heartfelt comment tweeted out results in a few days of scrambling and back pedaling.

I was on a review team visiting a low performing middle school; we arrived at the school bright and early, the secretary apologized, the principal was busy assigning coverages for absent teachers. The principal walked into the meeting, somewhat disheveled, “Had to find teachers for coverages, we can never find enough substitutes.” The team leader began the meeting with a soft question, “How would you describe the qualities of an effective teacher?” The principal, replied immediately, “They come every day and blood doesn’t run out from under the door”

Triage management, advance planning is the crisis of the moment and the norm becomes constant triage: a description of the job of the NYC Chancellors of the past?

Does the new guy have a theory of action?  Guiding principles?

Marc Tucker, President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in a paper entitled, “The Problem with the ‘What Works’ Approach to Education Research and the Case for Focusing on the Determinants of Highly Successful Education Systems” is sharply critical of focusing on programs, which he sees as commonplace, as the reason for mediocre student outcomes decade after decade. Tucker urges research leading to systemic change.

In my judgment … what the “proven program” research paradigm actually does is identify programs that produce marginal results in a dysfunctional system, when the real issue is how to fix the system, a problem that cannot be addressed with this paradigm.

 The underlying logic is simple. Start with the problem – say, a large proportion of students leave elementary school two or more years behind in reading. Come up with a theory about the cause of the problem and, to test the theory, use the theory to develop … a program. Administer the program with statistical controls … Then, put all the programs whose effect size crosses a certain threshold and meet certain criteria for research quality on a list of proven programs. Then stand back and watch the policymakers implement them in great numbers, replicating everywhere the results the researchers observed. Except, of course, they don’t. They never have, and when they do, we don’t see much improvement at scale.

 What researchers in the United States are doing is identifying programs that are at least making a little difference in a highly dysfunctional system. They tell you nothing whatsoever about how to build a highly effective system. They are a prescription for assembling a house of Band-Aids, when we could be building a great house.

 And that bring us to the main point, which is that effective schools, districts and states are not compilations of effective programs. They are effective systems. You may have a great way to teach reading, but, if you have lousy teachers, it won’t produce great reading results. You may have great teachers, but, if the school leader is a petty tyrant and does not support good teaching, the good teachers will either leave or give up while going through the motions of teaching.

Tucker concludes,

I am advocating for is a large program of research on the most successful education systems in the world, organized to help American states understand what combination of features of their systems account for their success, or, put another way, what the common principles are that underlie the different approaches they have taken. What is needed is a design orientation, which is to say that the purpose of this research should be to facilitate the redesign of our current state systems of education for high performance.

  Robert E. Slavin Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in “Using What Works [is the] Best Way Forward,” sharply disagrees with Tucker, he avers there are specific interventions that work.

 The only programs known from research that routinely add the equivalent of 20 or more PARCC points involve tutoring. This is particularly true when tutoring exists in a response-to-intervention format, in which students receive only the services they need. Tutoring is expensive. However, its costs can be greatly reduced by hiring high-quality paraprofessionals (teacher assistants), such as ones who have a B.A. Also, effective tutoring is likely to reduce special education costs in the long term. The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE), which I lead, recently completed a research review and found that tutoring from high-quality paraprofessionals exercised substantially positive outcomes on student achievement, averaging the equivalent of 26 PARCC points for one-to-one tutoring in reading or math, and 14 points for one-to-small group tutoring. If continued with integrity and care across multiple years, a growing number of students would reach “proficient” each year … students eventually could advance far beyond those in Massachusetts and “top-performing” countries. And there would be additional benefits: the apprenticeship model of hiring and training high quality tutors could bring talented, eager, recent college graduates into the teaching profession.

 The most important problem in America’s schools is not our middling PISA scores. It is the persistent gaps in achievement according to social class and ethnicity. Middle-class, White, and Asian students do not present major achievement challenges for our country. It is African American, Hispanic, and Native American students, and disadvantaged students of all ethnicities, whose learning demands our full attention … My proposal goes to the heart of this problem.  There is nothing wrong with struggling learners that tutoring and other proven programs cannot substantially improve. 

Is Carranza the “firefighter” chancellor, responding to blazes, hopefully quelling the jibes of critics and the media? Or, as per Tucker, will be spend months analyzing and researching the system and move forward with sweeping systemic change? Or, as per Slavin, will he select well-researched programs, for example, tutors, and put the programs at the core of the teaching/learning process?

In the meantime those inbox folders continue to grow as advocates and critics lose patience, remember the new journalism mantra: if it bleeds, it leads.

My recommendation for Richard: exercise, meditation and lots of mariachi practice – you picked one stressful job!!

 

Vergara Comes East: Tenure, Graduation Rates and Searching for Answers: How Do We Improve the Odds for All Kids?

Vergara come East.

The same folks who won the lower court litigation attacking tenure in California will be suing in New York State (see Chalkbeat report here)

In my view the suit has no legs; I believe the courts will dismiss the suit as not “ripe,” the suit is prematurely filed. The New York State teacher evaluation law has yet to fully rolled out, we only have scores from year one and it will take a couple of years before we have any data on the effectiveness of the process.

As I described in a previous post the law expedites the time frames and establishes a process in which supervisory assessments, student test scores and a locally negotiated tool combine to create an overall score – the law requires that the implementation details (number of observations, Measures of Student Learning, etc.) are subject to collective bargaining.

The law determines teacher competency and sets processes for dismissal with an expedited due process hearing.

On the same day the new litigants announced their intent to sue State Education announced the graduation rates. (See a detailed PowerPoint)

There is nothing surprising – graduation rates report the 2009 cohort – students that entered high school in 2009 (if a student transferred to another school they are not counted in the cohort – if they dropped out they are counted). Graduation rates in “high tax,” meaning high tax school districts (wealthier districts that spend much more per student) have higher graduation rates and low tax (districts that spend less per student) – primarily rural school districts and the “Big Five” (NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) have lower graduation rates.

Statewide 74.9%
NYC 61.3
Buffalo 53.4
Rochester 43
Yonkers 66.4

English language learners ELL), who are primarily in the “Big Five” had declining graduation rates, no doubt to the elimination of the local diploma.

What the report does not do is investigate the 25.1% who did not graduate – who are they?

The answer is not surprising: English language learners, students with disabilities, Afro-American and Hispanic males, and, students with histories of poor attendance.

At the same meeting that the graduation rates were released the Regents began the process to approve changes in the regulations that govern English Language Learners – Part 154 – the first time the regs have been changed in thirty years. Unfortunately the regs are compliance regulations that will have little impact on actual classroom instruction. In fact, the regs will place additional financial burdens on the small, low tax districts that are already teetering on the edge of educational bankruptcy.

While the regs are an improvement, measuring minutes of instruction will not improve outcomes. Kids who exit (“score out”) ELL programs do at least as well as all other students. Students who enter school, especially in the middle and high school years, with interruptions in formal education, not surprisingly, do poorly, and “ever-Ls,” kids who never score out of ELL programs do poorly.

There are programs that have been successful, i. e., the International and Newcomer High Schools in New York City that teach English in the content areas instead of pull-out and/or push-in programs that essentially treat ESL instruction as a separate course. Counting minutes of instruction has no bearing on successful outcomes.

ESL students in schools with portfolio waivers have much higher graduation rates as well as high completion rates in college.

What is so frustrating is that we not only know why kids drop out of school we can identify the individual kids in the sixth grade. John Balfanz, a researcher at John Hopkins reports,

In high-poverty schools, if a sixth grade child attends less than 80 percent of the time, receives an unsatisfactory behavior grade in a core course, or fails math or English, there is a 75 percent chance that they will later drop out of high school — absent effective intervention.

There are schools that understand the issues and have instituted supports that have been highly successful; unfortunately these schools are the outliers.

Kathleen Cashin and Bruce Cooper, professors at Fordham University point to another key – the drastic reduction in guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists in New York State,

… attention and time devoted to the “whole child” are now much less likely because teachers working alone in their classrooms are assuming more and more responsibility. And we see less staff who are trained and hired to help students — socially and emotionally — with a reduction in social workers, guidance counselors, athletic coaches, and school psychologists.

As a consequence, what are the effects of this drop in guidance counselors, now fewer in number in many schools, on children’s growth, stability, school attendance, as well the impact on levels of bad behaviors, such as physical bullying, and cyber-bullying? Those staff, specifically trained to address these students’ needs and problems, have diminished and thus are no longer around — or have so many students to serve, that they are not able to counsel students fully for college and career readiness.

We can identify students in elementary school who are dropout candidates simply by looking at chronic absenteeism. The Center for New York City Affairs at the New School points to specific schools,

In many neighborhoods, the challenges of child and family poverty are immense. Addressing these issues directly, alongside absenteeism, may not only improve school success in the long-term, but also strengthen families and improve the quality of children’s lives. The report suggests a targeted approach to addressing chronic absenteeism and family instability in 100 city schools with the goal of strengthening schools by strengthening families.

We know who is not graduating, we know why they are not graduating, and, our only approach is punitive. We identify priority and focus schools, schools with poor data, send in teams to write negative reports, and fail to address the core problems.

The Regents (although there appears to be some pushback) and the Commissioner have been fixated on the Common Core as the prime path to increasing student academic competency in New York State. It would be helpful if the focus on the Common Core was accompanied by a content-rich curriculum.

Around the state there are model schools and model clusters of schools that effectively serve all students. Regent Tilles calls them “hybrid” schools – public schools with a university or not-for-profit support organizations; examples are the International High Schools Network, the Expeditionary Learning Schools and Columbia Secondary School.

Towards the end of the monthly Regents meeting the board, once again, for the umpteenth time, began a discussion about eliminating the Global Studies Regents exam – the reason – it’s “too hard.” Mindless!! The feds only require exit exams in English, Math and Science, and, State Ed has been suggesting that the Regents consider adopting the federal standards and abandon the hundred year old requirement of five Regents Exams. Gee, what a novel approach, give fewer tests.

Why not a radical approach – encourage, cajole, arm twist or require school districts to adopt approaches with a proven track record and support with content rich curriculum.

If we get that sixth grader to school every day six years later s/he will graduate high school college and career ready. What a surprise!!!