Tag Archives: King

King on the Spot: Who “Won” the Teacher Evaluation Battle? or, Is the Hubbub “Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing?”

… it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth

Understand we are all pawns on a limitless stage with the powerful vying for our adulation, and every few years, our votes.

After eight years Michael Bloomberg had fashioned a worldwide reputation – as a cynical New Yorker told me, “He turned New York into Copenhagen, whether we liked it or not,” pedestrian malls, bike lanes, new refurbished parks, low crime rates and an avalanche of tourists from around the world, the well-honed image, the diminutive, aloof manager-mayor at a press conference pointing at a reporter, “Miss, your question?” The apolitical mayor, neither democrat nor republican, running the greatest city in the world, who briefly flirted with running the nation.

Four years later he is an angry, reclusive billionaire spending his final months in a vengeful assault on teachers and their union.

In the early hours of January 17th, the final date the governor set for agreement the department and the union reached a handshake agreement. Hours later the mayor made a political judgment – he trashed the agreement and rolled out his media mavens. The mayor, editorials in the Daily News and the Post, the republican mayoral candidates and conservative pundits, all undoubtedly orchestrated by Howard Wolfson, the deputy Mayor for Political Skullduggery, all pounding away at a union who was “defending incompetent teachers.”

Anything short of building a guillotine on the steps of City Hall is unacceptable, tumbrels must be rolling from schools to the blade, and we must rid the city of the plague of bad teachers.

Sacrificing 250 million the penalty for not reaching a timely agreement, is a small price to pay to resuscitate a stumbling legacy and, John King, might be vulnerable, and might fear the slings and arrows of the Bloomberg regency.

Late Saturday afternoon Commissioner King released his decision: see State Ed summary, and the full 241-page decision.

The NY Post claims the decision is a victory for the mayor, sort of.

The department matches up city and union positions with the Commissioner’s decision and claims a win and crows that they won.

Gotham Schools cogently summarizes the plan with comments by Walcott and Mulgrew.

UFT President Mulgrew writes a letter to members explaining the positive components and worries about implementation.

Gotham Schools reminds us that the mayor had different expectations for the final plan,

In January and last year, Mayor Bloomberg rejected teacher evaluation deals because he said the systems that would go into place would not result in any teachers being fired.

King pushed back against that outlook today, in the first paragraph of his press release touting the new evaluation system.

“There are strong measures to help remove ineffective teachers and principals, but let’s be clear: New York is not going to fire its way to academic success,” King said.

One of aphorisms in the world of management is: as complexity increases the chances of achieving goals decreases – and teacher eval plan clearly is enormously complex.

Two years or so down the road, with a new, probably a democratic and teacher union friendly mayor in place, one wonders whether the “strum und drang” of the last year will have faded away, as the dismissal procedure for “double ineffective” teachers face an arbitrator for the first time.

Principals generally fall into two categories, the managers and the educators: some principals spend their time managing the school – discipline, guidance, and sorting through reams of paperwork, they can usually be found in their offices while others are constantly in and out of classrooms engaging in the teaching/learning process – a few are both.

The core of the plan, the 60%, are teacher observations,

Danielson (2013): 22 components must be observed annually via observations and teacher artifacts
Teachers will have a choice between two options and indicate which option they have chosen at their initial planning conference in the beginning of the school year:
• Option 1: (a) minimum of 1 formal; (b) minimum of 3 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
• Option 2: minimum of 6 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
Teacher may authorize observation by video

The department encourages principals to use a low inference protocol for teacher classroom observations – the observer scribes the lesson: pupil:teacher and pupil:pupil interactions and in the post observation conference discusses the lesson: How effective do you think the lesson was? How do you know? Why did you ask a particular question? Did it produce the expected answer? How could you have improved the question? How would you assess pupil engagement? etc., the post observation is a self-assessment as well as a principal assessment tool. The resultant report is a summary of the conversation – with a “grade” in the HEDI range (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing and Ineffective), no longer the S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) assessment. The lesson is viewed through the Danielson lens. See Danielson Evaluation Instrument (2013).

A Partnership Support Organization, New Visions for Public Schools produced a detailed guide for principals on teacher observations.

The Teacher Effective Project Handbook Teacher Effectiveness Program 2012-13 Handbook, a project in coordination with the union, is a detailed guide to teacher observations.

The overall teacher evaluation law is far too complex and the entire state will stumble.

In New York City, in addition to the complexity of the plan, I have grave doubts about whether the current leadership of the department can manage the teacher evaluation plan. A new leadership team, working together with the union, might be able to craft a collaborative instructional support program, engaging peers in the observation program, using new technologies to view lessons, use common planning time as lesson studies, the potential is great, and unfulfilled.

Sadly the first act of the department/mayor after the release of the plan was to gloat – they may not be gloating after 12/31/13.

Weingarten Calls For A Moratorium on the Implementation of the Common Core: A “Save Harmless” Year for Planning That Includes Parents, Teachers and Principals.

The Common Core (CCSS) is approaching a tipping point, defined by Malcolm Gladwell as,

The word “Tipping Point” comes from the world of epidemiology. It’s the name given to that moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass. It’s the boiling point. It’s the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards. [in my example, downwards].

While the Common Core aficionados, the editorial boards of the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the NY Daily News laud the CCSS parents, principals and teachers are increasingly pushing back.

The parties responsible for providing the dollars, the electeds at the federal, state and local levels read the editorials and place that finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

As Tip O’Neill so succinctly put it, “All politics is local.”

In July the test scores will be released and the attacks will resume – dramatic drops in scores and the consequences – angry parents, teachers and principals – next year the Regents exams will reflect the CCSS and the attacks will reprise as more kids fail Regents exams and graduation and college readiness rates plummet.

Commissioner King bravely defends the decision to dive into the CCSS.

As a state, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above will likely decrease as a result of the more challenging expectations of the Common Core around careful analysis of text, writing with evidence from sources, applying math skills to real world problems, and critical thinking. The results this summer will provide a new baseline against which we – parents, educators, and students – can measure our progress toward college and career readiness.

The current implementation of the CCSS angers the public, the specter of the Bloomberg fall from grace over flawed school policies will resonate among the electeds.

We are approaching a tipping point.

Presidential aspirant Cuomo will see the “handwriting on the wall,” as the voting public loses faith, as polls show their opposition, for Cuomo, blame has to placed.

AFT President Randi Weingarten in a speech this morning at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) offers a way out. See NY Times article here and an excellent Huffington Post article here.

With David Coleman, the father of the Common Core in the audience Randi asked,

So, what if I told you there is a way to transform the very DNA of teaching and learning to move away from rote memorization and endless test-prep, and toward problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork—things I know many of you have been advocating for years? And what if I told you there is a way to do that not a generation from now, but for students today, who will be the employees you’ll hire tomorrow?

For Weingarten the CCSS is at a crossroads,

I predict these standards will result in one of two outcomes: Either they will lead to a revolution in teaching and learning. Or they will end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms, with people throwing up their hands and decrying that public schools just don’t work. And the coming months will determine which outcome comes to pass.

The AFT President makes a simple suggestion – take a deep breath – declare a moratorium on the impact of high stakes testing – make 2013-14 a “save harmless” year – spend a year working out an implementation plan.

An implementation plan must include curriculum, professional development and time—but they aren’t sufficient. A high-quality implementation plan also means involving the frontline educators who are responsible for engaging students in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and the other skills expected in the Common Core. And the plan can’t just be imposed from on high. It needs to be designed with and by teachers—ideally through their collective bargaining agent. The only way this will succeed is if teachers have input and ownership. Teachers rise to the occasion. The more input and supports they have, the more confident they are about mastering these instructional shifts.

I fear the CCSSaphiles will push forward, continuing to test and punish, continuing to ignore the valid doubts of teachers and parents.

At the beginning of her speech Weingarten raised the thick volumes of the ELA and Math Common Standards – teachers envision emblazoned across the cover of the volumes the words of Dante, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”), the Core, rather than graduate students with college and career skills will be viewed as a punitive device, another way to punish, to humiliate, a “reform” that will fade and gather dust.

The clock is ticking.

Sitting in the audience: Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Education D’Shaun Wright, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and a long list of “movers and shakers.”

After months of exemplary approval ratings Governor Cuomo’s ratings have plummeted from 74% to 59%. It’s only a matter of time before the backlash over high stakes testing will begin to splash the Governor.

Mayor Bloomberg, in his last year, his education approval ratings have dived,

… that 56 percent of registered voters in New York City say they trust the union more to go to bat for students. Less than a third, 31 percent, said they trust Bloomberg more.

The Common Core, to use a Gladwell analogy is ” a meme, [an] idea that behaves like a virus–that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects,” the Common Core will either be rejected as a terrible idea or accepted as a brilliant approach to changing education.

Tick, tock.

Read and/or watch Weingarten’s speech here.

Building Trust or Building Antagonism: Will Teachers and Parents Accept or Reject the Common Core?

Over the next two weeks kids in grades 3-8 are will be spending a couple of hours a day bubbling in answer sheets, writing essays and coping with multiple-step math problems. The tests reflect the new Common Core, and Walcott/Suransky and Tisch/King tell us,

The old tests…. tested only basic skills, and “were stifling learning and frustrating … children’s creativity.” By contrast, the new assessments, designed to assess whether students are on track for college and careers, are oriented toward critical thinking, solving real-world problems, and closer reading and analysis of texts. The new tests are “a completely different baseline,” the policymakers wrote, and the percentage of students identified as proficient is likely to plummet compared to previous years.

Old tests were “stifling learning and frustrating,” sounds more like a description of the new tests.

We know there is no curriculum, New York State has posted reams of material on their EngageNY.org website, the state recommends/suggests to schools districts across the state, however decisions are local. In New York City schools belong to networks, groups of schools with differing philosophical approaches – some enamored of Lucie Calkins strategies and others who abhor her views. The City-Wide Instructional Expectations 2012-13 and Instructional Shifts documents present an overview of department goals. As Sol Stern has written in the City Journal the department is misguided, either through ignorance or design. At the school level too many schools mechanically require frequent interim assessments and lesson plans targeting “deficiencies” identified in the assessments. A huge paperwork burden that results in what is essentially constant test prep – constant remediation to improve the data on interim assessments, and, perhaps, on the standardized tests.

The department lauds principals that require each and every lesson plan and lesson reflect instruction that targets “deficiencies” in Acuity, or whatever interim assessment the school uses.

Acuity is a Common Core K–12 comprehensive assessment solution that supports district and school instructional improvement goals, while enabling teachers to use valid and reliable assessment data to inform their instruction and intervention plans (from Acuity website)

Teachers feel overwhelmed, threatened and question whether this relentless imposition of essentially a 24/7 test prep philosophy will actually create “college and career ready” students.

Ironically at the same time the Common Core is being driven into classrooms across the city the department is about to adopt an instructional assessment model – the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks.

In addition to her Frameworks book – the new “bible,” Danielson has written a thin volume, “Talk About Teaching! Leading Professional Conversations (2009).”

Danielson begins the book with a sentence with which I hope we would all agree,

Leadership in schools implies instructional leadership. All educators who exercise either formal or informal leadership have the responsibility to use their influence and positional authority to insure high levels of pupil learning.

She believes that at the core of any conversation is building trust,

Arguably, the most important condition for professional conversations is the existence of trust between teachers and administrators, without trust, teachers are always on their guard in the presence of the principal, and they tense up whenever an administrator enters their classroom. Discussions during faculty meetings cannot be an honest reflection of professional views if teachers fear retribution or loss of standing if they express a view divergent from the official position.

The doyen of instruction practice warns us that building trust is at the core of using her frameworks to build competency at the same time that the department is hammering teachers with an inflexible heavily regimented approach to teaching.

Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform“(David Tyack and Larry Cuban) reviews a century of school reform initiatives, almost all of which faded into the dustbins of school reform. Tyack and Cuban conclude that unless reforms are accepted by teachers and parents they fail.

Harold Howe, II, former US Commissioner of Education, in a review writes,

Isn’t the message these two professors from Stanford have brought us under the banner of Tinkering Toward Utopia very much the same message as that of Robert Browning, which is so often quoted: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”