Tag Archives: Mark Treyger

What Happens When a Teacher or Student Tests COVID Positive? and Other Unanswered Questions from School Leaders and Teachers: Safety, Organization and Instruction [Updated]

You don’t encourage teachers to care for, love and respect their students by disrespecting educators and placing their lives at risk.” (Eric Nadelstern, former Deputy Chancellor, NYC Department of Education)

Half of the members of the Miami Marlins baseball team have tested positive for COVID   putting into question the viability of the entire baseball season.

Could the same happen in a school?

A New York Times opinion essay asks the right question, “What Will Schools Do When a Teacher Gets Covid-19, and encourages school districts to answer the question.

At the virtual AFT Convention Randi Weingarten and Dr Fauci answered questions from teachers:  Watch here,  Fauci repeated what he has been saying; school opening decisions are local and depend on scientific data and safety protocols.

A highly regarded pediatrician who have been in the forefront of treating COVID infected children, in a NY Daily News writes,

, In accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics, I believe in-person instruction should occur as much as possible, and certainly in areas, including New York City, where the percent COVID-positive tests are less than 5%. Parents and educators alike need to understand that we are at least a couple of years away from a widely-used COVID vaccine. Two more years of young children attempting to learn through screens would be a pandemic of its own.

Teachers lives versus children’s futures: a Hobson’s Dilemna.

School leaders are struggling with choosing hybrid instructional models, do we “satisfy” parents or do we select a model that we feel is the instructionally sound?

School re-opening plans are due by July 31, the governor has announced he will determine a school opening “go/no-go” the first week in August and the mayor says he will determine school opening latter in the summer.

The NYC Public Advocate, Jummane Williams and the NY City Council Education chair, Mark Treyger is calling for a delayed opening, a phased opening.

School staffs are fearful, even though the COVID contagion rates in New York are very low; fear can be rational or irrational. You have a better chance of being struck by lightening than being in a plane crash, the fear of flying is irrational, you are still fearful.

Fear stimulates a chemical response in your body, and unresolved fears,; fears over long periods of time are harmful,.

Your body is meant to return to its normal state after this response, so when exposed to cortisol for long periods of time, your body can have long-term effects, including diarrhea, nausea, colds, high blood pressure, migraines, asthma, and heart attacks

School leaders and school staffs have long lists of questions, unresolved questions and there appears to be a yawning gap between school personnel and the decision-makers, the core questions from the folks who will actually be in schools and the school districts and State Education Department leadership.

I asked a number of school leaders: below is a sampling of the numerous unanswered questions,

Safety [Department of Education releases guidelines:  priority testing for all school staff prior to the opening of school and guidelines for responses for positive tests for staff members or students and contact tracing – read here ]

Will on-site COVID testing be available for all school staff members? [Yes]

If a staff member or student tests positive what are the protocols?  Will the school go all-remote for 14 days and not reopen until the staff member/student tests negative? [click above]

My school is in one of the highest COVID zip codes in the city: can the school become a COVID testing site?

If a parent tests positive will the parent(s) child/children be quarantined for 14 days? [see above]

Will every school building have a school nurse?

Will schools be provided with PPP equipment?


If too many teachers in my school are approved for “medical accommodations” how will I be able to provide in-person instruction?

Under the best circumstances it will take over an hour to temperature check all students and adults entering the building: will there be specific guidelines re who can check temperatures?

If a parent refuses to have their child checked for temperature or refuses to allow their child to wear a mask; what the protocols?

If a student or staff member has a temperature of 100 degrees or over do we send them home?

Some parents indicate they intend to home school their child, do we mark the child absent?

If parents consistently bring their children on the “wrong” day what are the consequences?


Is there a waiver procedure if our school wants to use another hybrid instructional model?

Are there staffing templates available for each hybrid instructional model?

Can different teachers provide in-person and remote learning for the same class?

Is there research on the effectiveness of models? Is in-school Monday/Wednesday/Friday and remote Tuesday/Thursday and flipped the following week, or, Monday/Tuesday in school and Wednesday/Thursday remote and flip Fridays, or one week in-school and one week remote more effective?

Should we follow the grade curriculum or move, if possible, to a project-based learning mode?

School leaders are adrift.

When the governor ordered a state-wide shutdown schools had to repair the proverbial aircraft in flight; we don’t know the “learning loss,” probably significant, and, the poorest kids lost out the most.

With a COVID positive testing rate at about 1% (way below the 5% rate set the governor weeks ago) the governor will undoubtedly give districts a thumbs up.

The long list, the very long list of unanswered questions from the very folks in the trenches is beyond disturbing.

The recent report from the NYC Independent Budget Office paints a bleak picture, without the passage of the pending HEROES bill, a bill that contains dollars for state and local governments as well as schools New York State may be facing, according to the governor a mid-year 20% cut in the budgets, according to the IBO a $2.3 billion cut in education.

Families are confused, teachers are confused and frightened and school leaders confused, frightened and angry; they desperately want to do the right thing, if only someone would tell what that is ….

Listen to FDR’s First Inaugural Address, “We have nothing to fear …”


Would Parents Win a NYC School Board Election? or, a Billionaire? or, Charter School Supporters?

In my last blog post I included my testimony to the Education Committee of the NYS Assembly and showed up bright and early on Monday to wait turn to testify.

The mayoral control law is not scheduled to sunset until 6/30/22; however, as Committee Chair Benedetto explained the members wanted to explore how the law is working, and, intends to hold further hearings and perhaps appoint a commission to explore in depth.

I suggested in my oral testimony that additional hearings are held in the poorest neighborhoods of the city; on Monday the testimony came from the most active communities in the city, i. e., the Upper West Side (District 3) of Manhattan, the Lower East Side (District 1) and Brownstone Brooklyn (District 15), the poorest districts were not represented.

Chancellor Carranza lauded mayoral control and listed achievements and had a “professional” back and forth with the committee members. Mark Treyger, the Chair of the City Council Education Committee mirrored my testimony: change the law to give the board (Panel for Education Policy) fixed terms and can only be removed for cause, add a seat for the City Council and increase the powers (unspecified) of the local boards (Community Education Councils).

A number of the speakers were Asian and were sharply critical of the mayor’s policy to end G & T classes as well as the specialized high school admittance procedures and supported moving to an elected central board. Other speakers also called for an end to mayoral control and moving to an elected board.

I reminded the committee that Los Angeles had an elected board; elected with millions of dollars from charter school supporters.

Now a little history … (the teacher in me!)

The last time New York City had an elected school board was in the 1870s, and, the move away from elected school boards was part of the first wave of reform; referred to as the Progressive Era. The school board elections were dominated by political organizations.

On the day of the inauguration of a president  lines formed outside the White House; folks who supported the candidacy of the newly elected president seeking jobs in the federal bureaucracy; the opponents of the patronage system called it the “spoils system.” The same practices were replicated at the state and local jurisdictions. While the “reformers” protested the system was deeply engrained in our political culture.

In 1881 President Garfield was shot and killed by a disappointed job seeker and two years later Chester Arthur, who succeeded Garfield as president signed the Pendleton Act (1883), a sweeping law that created the federal civil service system.

The progressive reforms moved from the federal to the states.

New York City is a relatively new creation, the “Great Consolidation,” the merging of the boroughs into one city occurred in 1898. The creation also resulted in the merging of the separate school systems into one system; and, a few years later the establishment of a Board of Examiners, a quasi-independent body that created tests, administered and scored the tests and produced rank-order lists from which teachers/supervisors were hired ending the patronage that had plagued the school system for decades. The Central Board, a policy board, was appointed by the mayor among recommendations from a screening panel and appointed a superintendent.

The Board of Examiners licensing of supervisors was ruled racially discriminatory in the mid-1970s and the Board was abolished in 1990 and replaced by tests required by the state for certification, hiring occurring at the district level. (Read a more detailed account here)

The history of the education in New York City is described in detail by Diane Ravitch in “The Great School Wars,” (1973). From the 1870s until 1970 New York City Boards of Education were appointed indirectly by the mayor. Prior to 1870 they were elected, Ravitch writes of elected boards,

A history of the city that was published in 1869 noted that when, “The Trustees and Commissioners (aka, school boards) happen to be educated men of character the schools they have charge of are well managed schools, but, when as very often happens they are ignorant and unprincipled the schools suffer. There is therefore a marked difference in schools, some of them are excellent and others the opposite. Among the elected school trustees were ‘keepers of groggeries who can hardly write their own name’.”

Our experience with elected local school boards is conflicted, a few districts thrived. District 22 (Flatbush, Madison, Sheepshead Bay) bused 1,000 Black students a day into previously all-White schools, totally committed to School-Based Management and School-Based budgeting and even asked to secede from the city and become an independent school district. Other districts, too many “others.” the poorest and the lowest achieving, were dominated by powerbrokers, at best inept, at worst corrupt. Although decentralization has been romanticized in the podcast “School Colors,” the question of how you move back to more empowered local school boards without recreating corrupt fiefdoms is both challenging and of interest to the members of the committee that attended the hearing.

Mayoral Control took a hit today as the NYC Department of Investigation savaged de Blasio in a devastating report,

,Mayor Bill de Blasio engaged in “political horse-trading” to delay an investigation into academic standards at Orthodox yeshivas, according to a joint investigation released Wednesday …

The … agencies looked into the city Department of Education’s probe of the yeshivas and whether they were providing a “substantially equivalent” education to that provided in the city’s secular public schools. The DOE’s inquiry has been subject to numerous delays leading to accusations that the mayor’s office was treading too lightly in its examination for fear of upsetting the politically powerful Orthodox community.

… the mayor and state legislators agreed to delay a report of the DOE’s findings in an effort to clinch support for extending mayoral control of city schools.

Read entire Report here.

Maybe not as blatant as the days of “Boss” Tweed; however, bad enough. We have to ask: were the mayor’s motivations to change the admission requirements to the specialized high schools and his support for ending Gifted and Talent programs based upon his core beliefs or based on attracting Afro-American and progressive voters in his ill-fated run for the presidency?

The elected Boards of Education back in the 1860s were controlled by the Tweed machine and corruption was the order of the day. Today we’re watching billionaires fund their own presidential campaigns, what is to say that billionaires wouldn’t dump their ill-gotten gains into an election for a NYC school board?

How do you empower local boards (CECs) without ceding decision-making to the corrupt, narrow-minded and bigots?

On one hand the mayor has an excellent relationship with the teacher union, created the most expansive pre-k program in nation and on the other hand sharply criticized specialized high school admissions and Gifted and Talent programs without taking any actions.

Are there other examples of “horse-trading?”

Is this story just beginning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers assess data every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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