Tag Archives: Kathleen Cashin

Reforming the Board of Regents: Who Do the Regent Members Represent? Parents? the Public? the Legislators Who Elected Them? Or, Themselves?

The New York State Board of Regents, established by the legislature on May 1, 1784 is the oldest, continuous state education entity in the nation. The members represent each of the 13 judicial districts in the state and four members are at large. The members of the Regents select a Chancellor, in effect the chair of the board. The regents serve five year terms and are elected by a joint meeting of both houses, the 150-member Assembly and the 63-member Senate. There are many more Democrats than Republicans in the sum of the houses; in the real world of politics the democratic majority in the Assembly “elects” the regents. In recent years the Republican members of the Senate refused to attend the election session.

Unofficially the Democrats who represent a judicial district play a major role in the selection of the regent. As with all legislative items Sheldon Silver, the Speaker of the Assembly is the gatekeeper.

Incumbents are usually reappointed to a successor term, although last year Regent Jackson was not reappointed. The failure to appoint Jackson had nothing to do with his performance; it was a dispute among the members of the Assembly.

You would think that because of the nature of the selection process the selectees would be political, not so. The regents members have impeccable resumes: three former NYC superintendents, lawyers, a judge, a doctor, and college professors, all with roots in their communities.

The members are unsalaried and have no staff.

The regents meet for two days monthly (except August) in Albany, the May meeting is usually in another city in the state.

The regents select the Commissioner of Education who serves at the pleasure of the Board.

The full board meetings are webcast, the committee meetings are not.

The board work is done in a number of committees; the committee meetings are open to the public. The meetings usually begin after the initial full board meeting and take place one after another for the remainder of the day on Monday and continue Tuesday morning. A full board meeting usually takes place on Tuesday at the end of the succession of the committee meetings. Formal actions can only take place at the full board meetings. Changes to regulations, after approval by the committee are posted for public comment and come back to committees, reflecting the comments, and approved by the full board.

There is no opportunity for public comment at board or committee meetings, written formal public comment is the only “official” opportunity for input, although regent members receive hundreds of e-communications urging support or opposition for issues.

Agendas are set by the commissioner, probably with input from the chancellor.

The agenda and backup documents are extensive. The “Agenda and Materials” for the November meeting (see here ) are lengthy and extremely detailed.

The Monday full board meeting is informational, at the November meeting a new report, the Where Are They Now Report tracked students after they leave high school in New York State. After the meeting a number of superintendents were sharply critical of the accuracy of the report.

The full board meeting takes place in the ornate “Regents Room,” with portraits of former chancellors adorning the walls. The regent members and the commissioner sit at the table with the audience sitting around the room. At the succession of committee meeting, held in a larger room there are chairs for a hundred or so visitors, the K – 12 committee is usually full.

The “Charter Schools: Initial Applications and Charters Authorized by the Board of Regents.” item on the agenda is pro-forma, the state ed staffer gives a brief outline and the recommendations are approved, occasionally questions arise over the reauthorization of a charter, if the performance is lagging the school may be authorized for less than five years. The regent representing the area of the school usually comments and the item is approved. Wade Norwood, the Regent from Rochester was not present at the November meeting.

The regents approved a new Rochester charter, a few days later the media was filled with reports: the lead sponsor is a 22-year old with a fraudulent resume; he resigned from the charter board after the media reports.

Who is at fault? The SED staff? The Rochester Board member? Will the Regents re-examine the approval?

There have been too many issues in which the commissioner appears deaf to the public.

The regents are a policy Board, they set overall policy for the state and it is the role of the commissioner to implement the policy.

There is always a tension between the board and the commissioner. On the current board three members were superintendents (Regents Cashin, Rosa and Young), one Regent (Regent Tallon) was the majority leader of the Assembly, Regents Dawson and Bennett has served as regents for more than twenty years. The commissioner has far less experience on the ground, far less experience dealing with communities, unions and the complex political demands.

Controversial items may linger for meeting after meeting until the board members come to agreement or the issue fades away.

Regents Cashin and Rosa, both with decades of experience in leadership roles have challenged decisions; teacher evaluation, the test regimen, and the current edTPA exams. The major criticism has been the lack of evidence to support decisions and the failure to respond to criticisms from parents, teachers, principals and superintendents. While a few other regents are clearly uneasy with a number of issues they have generally gone along with decisions.

There will be two regents vacancies in this year, Regent Chapey resigned in July and Regent Phillips announced he will not be seeking another term and five incumbent regents will be seeking another term: Regent Tilles (Nassau-Suffolk), Cashin (Brooklyn), Young (at-large) and Regents Bennett and Dawson

Last spring, at the height of the criticism of the state testing fiasco a conscientious and knowledgeable legislator asked me, “Does this opposition to Common Core testing have a bill number?” Legislators were receiving hundreds of e-mails asking the legislators to intervene – intervene in what? The regents and the commissioner created a political minefield, a minefield that was a political issue beyond the ability of legislators to resolve.

Will legislators seek to elect new regents more likely to respond to the political needs of legislators? More responsive to parents and teachers? Will legislators seek to replace some of the incumbent regents? Once again, to select new regent members who are more open and sensitive to the political process? And, the larger question: who does a regents member represent?

Over the last few weeks Chancellor Tisch has supported increasing the cap on charter schools and threatened to close the 94 schools in the NYC School Renewal Plan.

Is the chancellor speaking for the regents? or, is she expressing her own opinion? Of course increasing or eliminating the charter cap is not a decision made by the regents; the cap is set in law.

Can the chancellor or the commissioner intervene and force the Renewal Schools to close? Well, according to Hank Greenberg, the regents-appointed Fiscal Monitor, in a devastating report on East Ramapo, tells us no matter how outrageous the actions of the school district, the commissioner has no power to intervene. To remedy the raping of the East Ramapo schools Greenberg recommends: diversity training??? If the commissioner does not have the authority intervene in East Ramapo will he intervene in New York City?

The sharp criticism of the regents raises serious questions:

* Who do the Regents represent?

The legislature that appointed them, the constituents in their judicial district, or, do they make decisions based on their own knowledge and experiences.

* Should the Regents become more transparent and interactive?

All meetings should be webcast, the public should have the opportunity to speak at Regent Meetings; the public speaks at town and city council meetings, at school board meetings, even at UFT Executive Board meetings any member can speak. The regents should hold public forums around the state to allow public input. Transparency is crucial for public institutions, especially with institutions that make decisions that impact the children of the state.

* Should the commissioner have the ability to remove or discipline school boards?

In my view, the commissioner should not have the authority to remove school boards without a process, perhaps an external body that can review reasons for removal.

* Should the current property-taxed based system of school finance continue? Or, should all school funding reflect a state-wide formula?

To allow the current system in which the richest districts spend double the per capita spending of the poorest district is disgraceful. The poorest districts, districts in rural communities are effectively bankrupt. The lack of a tax base should not doom students to an inferior education.

* Do we really need 700 school districts in New York State?

The Cuomo Education Commission made a number of recommendations; one was to consider the consolidation of the 700 school districts, a recommendation that did not have legs. Perhaps there are ways to consolidate services…. for example: should all legal services become the responsibility of regional state ed offices?

The Board of Regents should take a serious look their own functioning, the public has clearly lost confidence in the board, either the board reforms itself or the governor/legislature will make reforms. Trying to “manage” crises eventually leads to the public forcing reforms; rather than defending, organizations should remember: change can be a healthy process when it involves all stakeholders.

Defending the indefensible is always foolish and futile.

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!!!

Albany Spin: The Legislature Finds a Sacrifical Lamb, Will the Gods Require More Sacrifices?

On Friday a “friend” called Josephine Finn, a judge in the village of Monticello and asked whether she’d like to join the Board of Regents, she explained to about 25 legislators who attended the interview on Monday that she studied up all weekend.

As the state legislators asked questions, some quite pointed, committee chair Cathy Nolan, frequently intervened, “You don’t have to answer that.”

Judge Finn was passionate, aggressive, explained she was a “fast learner,” didn’t seem to know anything about co-locations of charter schools, or, for that matter, wasn’t too sure what a charter school was. She favored the Common Core, sort of, agreed it was poorly implemented, and didn’t understand the moratorium proposal.

As reporters began to ask her questions “handlers” whisked her away.

Later in the day Regent Jackson withdrew his candidacy, and, on Tuesday the three incumbents and Judge Finn were elected to five year terms.

In a break from the past two candidates were nominated for each position – needing 107 votes (a majority of the 150 Assembly members and 63 Senate members) each of the candidates received 120 votes – all from Democrats.

Guess what, the selection process for members of the Board of Regents is political, as are selectees to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sometimes the selectees are obviously highly qualified, sometimes the reason for the nomination is obtuse, part of local political wheelings and dealings.

The Brooklyn and Bronx delegations choose Kathleen Cashin and Betty Rosa – both had long highly successful careers as educators culminating as superintendents, both regularly visit schools, serve on education panels, deeply and critically question State Ed initiatives and occasionally oppose proposals of the Commissioner. Recently they vigorously opposed a task force report on amending the implementation of the Common Core and supported a two-year moratorium. They were outvoted.

The Board of Regents is a policy board, same as boards of CUNY and SUNY. The “policy” is actually set by the commissioner (called chancellors at CUNY and SUNY), and reviewed and approved/denied or amended by the boards.

A couple of days before the Regents monthly 2-day meetings the “Agenda and Materials” arrive See March materials here – usually about fifty or so pages of resolutions, back-up reports ranging from items impacting K-12, higher education, libraries/museums, budgets/audits, special education and the many professions supervised by the Board of Regents (dentistry, psychology, nursing, social workers and fifty or so more).

The Regents approve/amend/defer actions on the Common Core K-12 Social Studies Framework, or the Next Generation Science Standards, Transition Planning and Services for Students with Disabilities, Educator Diversity, Proposed Amendment to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to the Duration of Limited Permits for Applicants Seeking Licensure as Mental Health Practitioners under Article 163 of the Education Law and about thirty other equally complex issues all on the agenda of the March, 2014 meeting.(Click on the link above for details of the proposals)

The commissioner drives the agenda, the few Regents with career long connections with education have questioned the avalanche of new programs, have suggested pilot programs, have urged outreach to “the field,” outreach to a wider community, all to no avail.

One program piled atop each other, until with the release of the Common Core State Grade 3-8 Exams were released – two/thirds of students failed the test – try as they could the commissioner and the State Ed staff could not assuage parent anger:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

The parent anger not only did not abate, it increased, and who was at fault?

The governor blamed the Regents, appointed a task force, which issued a report, the legislators scrambled to avoid blame and found a “sacrificial lamb,” dumping Regent Jackson and allowing legislators most under fire to vote “no” on all the Regent candidates.

Will the charade convince parents that the legislators are guiltless…? Or, will the Governor require a “sacrificial lamb” higher up the food chain?

Is New York City Ready to Select a Chancellor in a Post Racial World?

* We’ve elected an Afro-American president – twice.

* A 2012 Gallup Poll reports, “Continuing to represent one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history, 87% of Americans now favor marriage between blacks and whites, up from 4% in 1958.”

“… the total number of interracially married couples has increased from 0.7% in 1970 to 3.9% in 2010.”

* In the September 2013 mayoral primary white candidate de Blasio and black candidate Thompson each received 42% of the Afro-American vote.

* The Supreme Court, in a number of decisions, sees, “affirmative as increasingly incompatible with the aims of the so-called post-racial age in which a first black president would seem to argue against any more need for racial redress,” writes Harvard professor Randall Kennedy.

Deborah Plummer, a psychologist writing on the Huffington Post “Black Voices ‘, see attitudes re race relations as a process,

A post-racial society is more like a continuous improvement process that requires incremental improvements over time rather than a “breakthrough” improvement that happens all at once as the result of a black American as president. Each one of us has to be involved in the continuous improvement process examining our own attributes and owning our behaviors…

Over the last week mayor-elect de Blasio announced the selection of Tony Shorris as first deputy mayor and Bill Bratton as police commissioner. Both selections were treated positively, with some discomfort over Bratton and whether his views on stop and frisk have mellowed since his days as commissioner in Los Angeles.

The next high profile selection is the chancellor – the leader of the school system. Education was a leading issue as de Blasio clawed his way to victory. He consistently opposed charter schools and co-location of charter schools in public school buildings, suggested charging charter schools rent, opposed the closing of struggling schools, letter-grade report cards and the overbearing testing-testing-testing regimen.

One would hope he would find a chancellor with a history that is congruent with the mayor-elect’s views. The current candidates of color who serve or served as large city school leaders, Kaya Henderson in DC, Barbara Byrd Bennett in Chicago and former supe in Baltimore, Andres Alonso, all followed the Broad Academy/Duncan/Bloomberg game book – charters, school closings, data and testing – all policies that would appear to be antithetical to the de Blasio game book. The selection would undoubted satisfy the NY Urban League and a host of electeds and activists who are demanding the appointment of a person of color to a high profile position in the administration, and, you can’t get much more high profile than chancellor.

Candidates, at least candidates in the press (see Gotham Schools here and the NY Daily News here) that espouse de Blasio’s policies are Josh Starr, superintendent in Montgomery County and Kathleen Cashin, a member of the Board of Regents with a long resume within New York City. Starr, in a high wealth district has been an aggressive opponent of testing, and had a lackluster six years as superintendent in Stamford, Cashin, in her role as a regent, voted against the Principal/Teacher Evaluation Plan and aggressively supports parents and classroom teacher, she was a beloved and highly effective superintendent in the poorest districts in New York City. Carmen Farina, who has been “out of the loop” for years, is a close advisor to de Blasio.

Communities of color seem to me to be far more “post-racial” than white communities. Neighborhoods are deeply ethnic – a friend of mine visiting from another city walked across Brooklyn, she couldn’t believe that Pakistani neighborhoods abutted an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood which nestled up to a Chinese neighborhood and a Caribbean area that led to a Russian community.

“Do they get along?” she asked.

I thought a moment, “Benign neglect,” and much better choices of restaurants.

If you are white you probably live in a white neighborhood with white friends and white work colleagues, if you’re a person of color you probably live in a community of color, however, you probably work in a predominantly white workplace, your kids’ teachers are probably mostly white, as are the local police.

You don’t applaud because the local cop on the beat is black or your daughter’s principal, you make your decisions on the quality of the police officer, the principal and the teacher.

Charles Barron may scream that skin color should be a first priority; parents and community members are far more sophisticated,

Let’s hope that for the sake of parents and kids the mayor-elect believes in a post racial world.

Musing on a New Chancellor and the Quandary of the Mayor, Experienced or Brash?

Henry IV was twenty-six years old in 1076 and Gregory VII was over fifty when at long last he came out from behind the scenes and became Pope.

“Early in his papacy, Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the investiture process; he was met by resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry insisted that he reserved the traditionally established right of previous emperors to “invest” bishops and other clergymen, despite the papal decree.

Henry renounced Gregory as pope; in return, Gregory excommunicated and deposed Henry. He stated furthermore that, one year from that day, the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable.”

Henry feared he would lose his kingdom if he did not come as a supplicant to the pope and receive absolution from the ban on receiving the holy sacraments.

“Dressed in woolen garments and with bare feet he traveled across the Alps to the papal castle in Canossa in the height of winter blizzards and told the pope that he cared much more for the celestial than the earthly kingdom; and offered to accept humbly whatever penance the pope would inflict.”

Today, “Canossa” refers to an act of penance or submission. To “go to Canossa” is an expression – to describe doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced.

Will Shael “Go to Canossa” to seek absolution from the new pope, Bill de Blasio?

(Thought a little Core Knowledge and Common Core would raise the standards of the blog)

Over the last few weeks Shael announced that he was piloting a new accountability system not based solely on test scores, exactly what the union has been espousing for years.

• Measures of the quality of student classwork (e.g., research papers, extended essays, art, and science projects);

• Measures that are based on other student outcomes, including student course outcomes, especially at the elementary and middle school level;

• Measures that quantify elements of our school Quality Reviews (e.g., the quality of classroom instruction, student engagement, supports for teachers and families); and

• Measures of student academic behaviors and mindsets that are associated with college and career readiness (e.g., persistence, ability to work in teams, effective communication, and organizational skills).

On a panel on Tuesday Shael chastised the mayor and the union for negotiating an extended instructional day in 2005 rather than using the time for staff collaboration, again, basically a long held union core belief.

Has Shael “Gone to Canossa?”

Will the new pope “lift the ban” and select Shael to lead the school system? Unlikely.

The burdens are too great: was Shael an architect of the ATR pool, fair student funding, the enormous emphasis on testing, the training of principals and on and on, or, was he the voice of reason within the administration who was the “good soldier” who carried out orders with which he did not agree?

It is more likely that “Pope” Bill will want to break with the past, a new face.

Will he seek another large city superintendent, like Josh Starr (Montgomery County) or Andres Alonso (Baltimore)? Starr, after a few years in the classroom moved to Tweed and on to Stamford, Connecticut as superintendent. Starr had a rocky six years, rigid, battling with the NEA union local and the community. In Montgomery County he has become an outspoken opponent of high stakes testing, however, he’s an avid data-phile. Alonso was never more than a few steps away from Joel Klein and in Baltimore followed the (de)form playbook, although he did work closely with the union.

Neither is a break from the past although both appear eager to please their boss.

There are a number others hovering in the wings.

Betty Rosa was a superintendent in the South Bronx is currently a member of the Board of Regents and has been an expert and lifelong advocate for English language learners. Kathleen Cashin, a highly successful Regional Superintendent under the early Klein years, and, also a member of the Board of Regents, a professor at Fordham University, has been an outspoken critic of the Duncan/King game plan. Irma Zadoya, also a Regional Superintendent under Klein is currently leading the department leadership Programs. Carmen Farina, an advisor to the presumptive mayor has made it clear she is retired.

Maybe a superintendent in a high performing school district: Paris, Seoul, Helsinki?

Will Bill want to keep the “trains on the tracks,” or, like Governor Jerry Brown in California directly challenge the “Duncan Rules?”

I think the time is ripe to challenge the decade of (de)form, to pick a chancellor not tied to Arne in DC or John King in Albany, to pick a chancellor who is amenable to the wishes of parents and professionals, a chancellor to lead us back to sanity.

Mayor-Elect de Blasio, “The ATR Pool is Insanity,” (A Hopeful Scenario)

Mayor-elect de Blasio speaking to a high level Department of Education official,

“Let me get this straight, when you close a school you dump the staff into what is called the ATR pool, the teachers are not assigned to another school, they rotate weekly from school to school and do whatever the principal assigns them, there are over 200 guidance counselors who also rotate and you have just added assistant principals to the rotation system. You have a team of field supervisors who observe and evaluate the folks in the ATR pool, the vast percent are rated satisfactory, and this system is costing, me, costing the city over $100 million a year.”

Department official, “Yes, you’re basically correct, let me explain the underlying reason for this policy.”

de Blasio, “Not not, do you have any evidence that this system improves students’ academic achievement or social and emotional well-being, by evidence I mean a peer-reviewed study?”

Department official, “No, but this policy is a core belief of our administration, can I explain further?”

de Blasio, “No, by core belief you mean dogma unsubstantiated by evidence, it is a politically driven policy, you believe that principals should select all teachers in their schools and are willing to divert $100 million to support an unproven political agenda.”

Department official, “There’s much more to it, I’d like to explain.”

de Blasio, “You already have explained,” and makes an aside to an aide as he walks away, “This is total insanity.”

– – – – – – – –

Over 1,000 teachers rotate weekly from school to school, the department argues it increases the chances of a teacher being permanently absorbed by a school, yet, the department allows “exceptions from the freeze” routinely. ATR field supervisors observe teachers in the pool teaching lessons and find the vast majority “satisfactory.”

Over 200 guidance counselors are in the pool. They could be providing college counseling, working with students in suspension centers, running family counseling sessions for parents and their children, instead, they rotate from school to school having little or no impact. Why are there so many guidance counselors in the ATR pool? Faced with the pressure to raise scores on standardized tests or graduation rates principals use funds for intensive remediation, test prep to jack up scores, and excess non-teaching personnel, namely, guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Kathleen Cashin and Bruce Cooper, professors at Fordham University, in Education Week, ask,

What do children do in school when they are treated like objects to be shaped, controlled, and rewarded—or punished—for what they said or did, learned, or failed to learn?

How can these children grow, be human, be happy, and become good adults? And how can teachers thrive and survive if they, too, are not treated with dignity, and humanity, by their students, colleagues, and administrators?

How can students engage in the learning process if they feel isolated, a condition that affects many students and teachers alike? For teachers are often working in isolation. And students, when they stare at computers all day, are hardly interacting with teachers or peers.

We argue for the reinstatement of the socioemotional dimensions of education—what was once called, in the educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s words, “the affective domain,” where teachers built into a lesson and the curriculum the human feelings, needs, and aspirations of their students, along with the cognitive demands of the learning experience.

The current system is so driven to increase test scores, so driven by ideology, that they ignore a vast realm of neuroscience research. Research that irrevocably links socioemotional well-being to success as adults; not only success in the academic realm but success in the world of work.

Check out this brief video from the Harvard Child Development Center: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/videos/theory_of_change/

The “insanity” of the ATR pool not only is a waste of department resources, over $100 million a year, it moves in the wrong direction. You cannot separate the cognitive from the non-cognitive domains, allowing principals to cut psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors because they think it is beneficial to fund an intensive test prep program is simply wrong.

Department dogma: give principals wide discretion and hold them accountable.

The reality: the department allows principals to make bad decisions, decisions that are antithetical to the goals of producing adults with the skills to successfully pursue college and career and the world of work.

Cashin and Cooper at Fordham and Jack Shonkoff at Harvard are not only correct, they are basing their views on peer-reviewed research, not unproven dogma.

The Science of Adversity and Resilience program at the Harvard Child Center has conducted a wide range of neuroscience research:

• Toxic stress and its impacts on lifelong health;
• Brain plasticity and critical/sensitive periods of development;
• Causal mechanisms that explain the origins of disparities in learning, behavior, and health that are associated with adversity-related socioeconomic status, maltreatment, and/or minority group status;
• Scientifically informed interventions and measurement strategies designed to improve the life prospects of disadvantaged children; and
• Factors that contribute to resilience in individuals and communities.

In spite of reams of rich research the department ignores science and depends on the work of a management professor at UCLA, William Ouchi (See summary here)

For twelve years the department has been speeding toward the light at the end of the tunnel, we all see that the light is an oncoming locomotive, all except the department.

One of Mayor-elect de Blasio’s first actions, an important symbolic action, should be to end the ATR pool and assign teachers and guidance counselors and assistant principals to full time positions in schools working directly with children. Gee, what a radical concept!