Tag Archives: Pedro Noguera

Will Mandatory Anti-Bias Training Eliminate or Increase Implicit Bias’?

It was the first session of a graduate education class; I introduced myself and asked an icebreaker question: “Take a few minutes and write your philosophy of education,” everybody busily scribbled away except Muhammad, who was Afro-American, an adult convert to Islam and had been a biochemist at a major company. I called on Mohammad first: “All white people are racist, what matters is their ability to deal with their racism.”  I switched my plans and asked the students to respond to Mohammad. Some were outraged, “How can you call me a racist? You’ve never even met me,” Another student, “I grappling with this question, I’m a white guy from the suburbs, and how can I relate to students of color?”

It was an interesting term.

Race was the subtext of many conversations.

If kids are not connected to a lesson how do you know it and how do you respond?   A major theme was if you want to change outcomes you have to change inputs, you have to be able to adjust your teaching to the needs of the kids if you want to change the behaviors of the kids. You have to get beyond preconceived notions, bias.

If you assign easier texts, assign below grade level work, is that an appropriate response or is that an implicit bias?

Should you assign “culturally relevant” texts or texts that resonate with the kids? Or, both?

I asked a few high school teachers what texts the kids like best; one told me “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Tennessee Williams?  She said yes, the kids loved reading about really, really dysfunctional white people. Another teacher taught Robert W Service poems “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, which he described as “white hip-hop,” and asked the kids to write their own hip-hop in the same meter.

Another teacher averred, “I’m a good teacher; the kids simply don’t care.” The teacher was Nigerian.

Race and ethnicity are complicated.

While the New York City school system may be 40% Latinx; the kids come from many Spanish speaking nations with very different cultures. Teachers from the Caribbean are culturally very different from kids they teach from Brooklyn.

The decision to require that over the next few years all teachers will participate in Implicit Bias or perhaps called Anti-Bias Training makes a key assumption: that the training will reduce bias, however you define the term, and improve outcomes for students.

Chalkbeat, the education news website interviewed teachers, the results were mixed.

  • , New York City teachers have had divergent responses to anti-bias training.Most of the 70 or so teachers and staff who responded to a Chalkbeat survey say they found the five-hour training useful. A teacher at a school in the South Bronx said it was helpful to have group discussions about data showing how students of color have been “over-policed” compared to white students. But others raised concerns. Another administrator thought the session had only succeeded in creating “resentment” and would cause her to “second guess every decision I make.”

The New York Post interviewed teachers who sharply criticized the training, finding it insulting, and for a few, anti-Semitic.

A core question: does anti-bias training actually reduce bias?

A recent article in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science  “Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Message,” warns,

 “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” [The author] continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

]The author]stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

The New York Post article led to an op ed sharply critical of the chancellor and a lengthy response   from Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and at NYU, Kirkland wrote,

When institutions such as schools, that wield powerful influence over the lives of children, are not anti-biased, they are unequivocally dangerous. Thus, we recognize the need for educators to (1) become aware of the manifestations of racism and privilege in our own lives, in the systems we create and support, and in our cultures, (2) work together in community to dismantle and reorganize the systems that support racism and privilege, (3) actively support each other and our families to acknowledge, honor, and appreciate differences, and (4)  incorporate anti-bias education at every level of American education.

 David’s predecessor at the Center, Pedro Noguera has doubts,

Pedro Noguera‏ @PedroANoguera 5h5 hours ago

Many were surprised when I expressed skepticism about the value of anti-bias training. I do believe racial bias is real and pervasive. I don’t believe you can be trained out of it unless you are open to unlearning it. To me, addressing structural inequities is far more important.

If you want to check out the training itself the website describes the training, which compressed a six month course into a five hour training.

We all have inherent bias,’ some we’re aware of and struggle to overcome, some are subconscious, and some we just live with.

Police officers shoot innocent Afro-Americans who they see as threatening, Afro-Americans may see Jews as “good with money,” and on and on. As teachers we have to acknowledge bias, on our part and on the part of the children we teach and their parents.

We have to move beyond, we have to deal with students one by one, and we have to seek out the trigger, seek out that path that leads the student to maximize their talents and beyond.

Staffs that include a wide range of races and ethnicities allow us to learn from each other and encourage us to use each other to maximize our collective talents, and, to move beyond our bias.’

The Failure of Arne Duncan: How President Obama Placed Friendship Above Sound Education Policy and Stained His Legacy.

Presidents and Congresses look for sweeping solutions for the issues/problems confronting America; after World War 1 Europe spiraled into a depression and rampant inflation that slowly inched across the Atlantic. In October, 1929 the stock market crashed and our economy disintegrated. President Hoover, following the conservative economic views of the day, was aloof, the government did not intervene in the economy, the “invisible hand” would correct the economy, direct government intervention was both unnecessary and the wrong path.

… the nation was deep in the throes of the Depression. Confidence in the old institutions was shaken. Social changes that started with the Industrial Revolution had long ago passed the point of no return. The traditional sources of economic security: assets; labor; family; and charity, had all failed in one degree or another. Radical proposals for action were springing like weeds from the soil of the nation’s discontent. President Franklin Roosevelt would choose the social insurance approach as the “cornerstone” of his attempts to deal with the problem of economic security.

In 1935 the Social Security Law established a safety net for all Americans, upon passage of the law FDR opined,

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”
President Roosevelt upon signing Social Security Act.

Thirty years later President Lyndon Johnson, as an amendment to the Social Security Law passed the Medicare and Medicaid programs. “The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older and Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage for certain low-income people.”

In the same year, Johnson, a former teacher, a mere three months after the bill was introduced passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law states,

“In recognition of the special educational needs of low-income families and the impact that concentrations of low-income families have on the ability of local educational agencies to support adequate educational programs, the Congress hereby declares it to be the policy of the United States to provide financial assistance… to local educational agencies serving areas with concentrations of children from low-income families to expand and improve their educational programs by various means (including preschool programs) which contribute to meeting the special educational needs of educationally deprived children”

The “financial assistance,” provides billions of dollars to school districts with high percentages of low-income families; the dense law attempts to prevent school districts from supplanting tax levy funding, and, the actual impact of the law has from time to time been subject to question.

In 2002 President Bush, in partnership with Senator Edward Kennedy passed a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and renamed the law No Child Left Behind.

Under the NCLB law, states must test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. And they must report the results, for both the student population as a whole and for particular “subgroups” of students, including English-learners and students in special education, racial minorities, and children from low-income families.

States were required to bring all students to the “proficient level” on state tests by the 2013-14 school year, although each state got to decide, individually, just what “proficiency” should look like, and which tests to use.

Under the law, schools are kept on track toward their goals through a mechanism known as “adequate yearly progress” or AYP. If a school misses its state’s annual achievement targets for two years or more, either for all students or for a particular subgroup, it is identified as not “making AYP” and is subject to a cascade of increasingly serious sanctions:

Although the effectiveness of ESEA/NCLB is open to question it has strong support, billions of dollars are driven to schools and school districts across the nation. Every representative and senator will support legislation that provides dollars to his/her district.

The reauthorization both continued Title 1, thereby assuring the support of both sides of the aisle and imposed the testing/sanction sections.

Ted Kennedy, the iconic liberal democrat from Massachusetts was the prime sponsor of the bill. While the opposition mounted the bill garnered retained support, from the testing industry and a strange coalition of civil rights organizations that saw the subgroup data as essential to keeping the spotlight on the subgroups and reformers who supported using testing data for teacher accountability.

Arne Duncan was in a unique position, he had the total support of the President and a legislative path to sweeping education reforms did not appear to be possible.

Roosevelt passed legislation that protects seniors both on the income side and the healthcare side; while the far right might trash Social Security and Medicare the legislation is firmly in place. Lyndon Johnson took the next step: Title 1 of ESEA is also firmly embedded in school districts across the nation.

Duncan’s plan was brilliant and devious, and, he didn’t need Congress.

David Coleman, the prime author of the Common Core State Standards, using what is called New Criticism and Literary Textual Analysis wrote new standards under the auspices of the National Governor’s Association. The governors in 46 states adopted the standards and the testing industry created new CCSS tests. The very core of education was changed without the involvement of any legislative body.

Duncan dangled 4.4 billion dollars in a competitive grants, “Race to the Top,” the competitive grants required the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the adoption of a teacher evaluation plan based on the growth scores on student tests scores and choice, aka, charter schools.

Teachers and parents pushed back, anger grew and President Obama steadfastly supported Duncan.

If you listen to Duncan, see three minute U-Tube, his policies on testing seem to be reasonable.

Duncan’s ideas can be reduced to creating competition among schools, a perverse educational Gresham’s Law, “good school will drive out bad schools.” Highly successful schools, charter or public will drive out, will close ineffective schools. Of course, online for-profit charter schools are fine, tossing out low performing or discipline problems ignored (“backfill”), and the large charter networks with deep philanthropy were praised.

In order to survive high poverty, low performing schools, will get better with the threat of charter schools. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the Milton Friedman approach to education would actually improve schools.

Link student test scores on the new Common Core tests to teacher performance; put the fear of the gods into teachers.

Arne Duncan will not go into history books as the FDR of education nor will he inherit the mantle of LBJ, state after state is backing away from the Common Core; the revolt against testing grows across the nation.

The lesson: no matter how close the friendship, no matter how loyal the friend: beware. Arne Duncan, your basketball buddy, an elite upbringing, jumped onboard the worst of the education reform ideas. As Linda Darling Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, renowned researcher after researcher questioned the Duncan agenda, Obama never strayed from supporting his friend.

John King, a Duncan acolyte will follow the Duncan agenda for the remaining year.

The failure of Arne Duncan will make a fascinating dissertation topic.

Separate But Equal or Ending Segregated Schools: A Conflicted Vision for School Improvement

(Note: Stan Litow, the IBM VP in charge of the Watson Teacher Mentor program clarifies, “no data mining …, says he’ll ‘write it in blood'”” and, a contest for teachers to select a name for the program)

The New School University and the Nation co-sponsored an intriguing event, Chris Hayes, MSNBC, acted as the moderator, Dana Goldstein, the author of the highly acclaimed Teachers Wars (Read NY Times review here ), Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education, Pedro Noguera, NYU and AFT President Randi Weingarten, mused about the future of public education.

The panel was a follow-up to the current issue of the Nation, “Saving Public Education.” Read the Nation articles here, they are excellent.

This is the sixtieth anniversary of Board v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision that reversed Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the prior decision that confirmed “separate but equal.” There have been a number of events looking back over the sixty years since Brown and the arc of school desegregation. In the spring NYU hosted a two-day conference, “Brown at 60: Has Desegregation Stalled?”

A Report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA confirms the title of the conference.

Segregation for blacks is the highest in the Northeast, a region with extremely high district fragmentation.

 Latinos are now significantly more segregated than blacks in suburban America.

 Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children, while white and Asian students typically attend middle class schools.

 Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas; the states of New York, Illinois and California are the top three worst for isolating black students.

Hayes asked the panel: Are we retreating to a pre-Brown era? Is “Separate but Equal” the new norm in our schools?

Noguera has spoken loudly and frequently criticizing New York City and national policies that foster racial isolation. In an interview prior to the “Brown at 60” event he explained his position,

Q: Many school districts have essentially re-segregated now that they’re no longer under court supervision. Is it time to reconsider legally mandated racial percentages to guarantee integration once again?

A: You need a comprehensive approach. You need to make sure that there’s affordable housing in many communities, and not just concentrate it into certain areas—which reinforces the segregation of schools. But then you also need things like magnet schools and other strategies to produce voluntary integration. We have learned that you can’t force people to participate in a desegregation effort, but you can do things to make it more attractive…

Q: Why are New York State schools the nation’s most segregated?

A: What New York did wrong is it did nothing. People attribute a lot of this to the idea of choice—that individuals are choosing where to live and where to put their kids in school. That’s not an accurate reading of history. We have a history in New York of legally sanctioned housing segregation—so that people of color, particularly blacks, were not allowed to move into certain areas. Those areas have stayed white. And that’s reflected in schools. By not taking those issues on through policy, New York State now finds itself singled out as among the most segregated in the country.

Panelist Zakiyah Ansari disagreed, to paraphrase, why do children of color have to attend a white school to get a good education? With equitable funding, a diverse staff and culturally relevant curriculum our kids can prosper. The panelists probably agree on almost everything, the almost, however, is significant, questions of race and class are the subtext of every conversation.

A few days later the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College hosted a discussion of A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (2014) by Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter. (Read book summary here). Gerald Robinson, the former Commissioner of Education in Virginia and Florida was the commenter and David Steiner, the Dean of the Hunter School of Education was the moderator. Oddly the discussion was a continuation of the discussion at the New School.

Kahlenberg reminds us that the charter school concept began with Al Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Shanker saw charter schools as incubators for new ideas, schools freed from school district regulations and union contracts that could experiment and share findings with public schools. In reality charter schools have been established to avoid union rules and create competition for public schools. Kahlenberg, in a book filled with sources for every assertion finds that charter schools at best are no better than public schools and in many occasions much worse. Sadly, there are only a few examples of schools that espouse the Al Shanker vision, schools with significant teacher voice and also that integrate children by race and class,

Kahlenberg backs up his assertion that children of color in integrated school setting are higher achievers. “Research suggests that students learn a great deal from their peers, and it is an advantage, on average, to have a strong core of middle-class peers for a variety of reasons.”

Low income students attending economically diverse schools benefit from the larger vocabularies, greater knowledge and more positive attitude toward learning found, on average, among middle and higher-income peers. It is an advantage to have classmates who are academically engaged and aspire to go to college. Peers in middle class schools are more likely to do homework, attend class regularly, and graduate – all of which have been found to influence the behavior of classmate.

The authors single out charters that both value teacher voice and have created student enrollment patterns that secure both racial and economic diversity, and, encourage the creation of charters that follow this pattern.

Gerald Robinson, the commenter, echoing Ansari, using an almost hip-hop lyric, pronounced, “Its place not race.” Kids are failing in inner city communities of color, that’s where we should place charter schools.

It is fascinating to me that Ansari and Robinson accept that we are living in a “separate but equal” world of schooling and we should move on and ignore the consequences of racial segregation. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor got is right in her fiery dissent in the Michigan affirmative action case.

And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?” regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”

Clearly, a post-racial America is far, far down the road.

Gangs and Schools: Should School Leaders Try to Eradicate Gang Cultures or Use the Leadership Qualities of Gang Members?

… hundreds of police officers swept into the Grant and Manhattanville housing projects in Upper Manhattan and arrested scores of people suspected of belonging to three warring street gangs …

Since June 2010, Manhattan prosecutors have dismantled 11 street gangs in East Harlem, winning convictions against scores of young people, most of them on conspiracy charges. (NY Times, June 4, 2014

The police are doing their job; arrest the “bad guys,” the criminals, gang members involved in crimes ranging from murder to drug distribution to street crime, as well as aliening kids at the fringes of gangs. The deeper question is whether a few months down the road the gangs will be reformed. Are urban gangs and Afghan tribes similar? Months after the US military rids a village of Taliban control the Taliban slowly reclaim the villages.

The military in Afghanistan has used brute force, from air strikes to drone strikes to the use of Special Forces combined with building schools for young women, drilling wells and developing “relationships” with village elders, yet, a dozen years later the feudal leaders seem determined to reject Western values for the millennium-old values of their tribal, patriarchal, misogynistic society.

The governmental responses to urban street gangs appear equally frustrating.

In Afghanistan children are born into their tribe or clan, in our nation kids choose to join gangs and there is a wealth of research on why kids join gangs.

The gangfree.org site offers reasons why kids join gangs and offers advice to parents.

* A Sense of “Family”
* Need for food or money
* Desire for protection
* Peer Pressure
* Family history or tradition
* Excitement
* To Appear Cool

The Denver District Attorney proposes a similar list,

There are different reasons for different kids.

• Some are drawn by parties, girls and drugs.
• Some are looking for respect and power.
• Some find a feeling of caring and attention in a gang. It becomes almost a family to them.
• Some want to make money—to help out at home or to have nice clothes, etc.
• Some join for self-protection because they are picked on by other gang members.
• Some grow up in a neighborhood where it is almost a way of life.
• Most have some real or imagined problem at home that makes them prefer the streets.
• Some gang members are addicted to drugs. The problems at home can become worse because parents don’t know how to cope with their addiction

Psychology Today also explores why kids join gangs and offers parents signs if your kid is in a gang and what to do about it.

The underlying question is why gangs exist was explored by NYU Professor Pedro Noguero,

Most studies on violence in low income communities link violence and violent behavior to social disorder – the breakdown of community institutions … such as churches, schools, social organizations … the past role of the social institutions … was to impart values and create a basis for community cohesiveness, in areas where these institutions have broken down, only the family remains as an effective agent of socialization … in their absence families are left on their own to impart and maintain these values.

The progressive decline of the nuclear family … has contributed to the current state of social disorder present in most American cities … the added financial burden born by such families contributes significantly to the hardships endured by family members. Moreover, most studies on single parent households clearly demonstrate that such families are more likely to be impoverished, more likely to have children that drop-out of school or do poorly academically, and have a greater likelihood of dependence on public assistance, not only for the head of the household, but for future generations as well.

Available evidence suggests that violent behavior tends to increase when there is both an increase in social disorder and a decline in living conditions. Economically depressed areas that lack sufficient jobs and services are more likely to have high rates of violence than communities that have greater resources. While the correlation between poverty and crime is high, in recent times there has been resistance to the notion that the condition of poverty itself is responsible for high rates of crime … The tendency to blame the victims of poverty for their entrapment, has become the most popular and fashionable explanation of poverty, violence, crime, drug use and other social ills associated with the condition of poverty.

… several scholars have suggested that crime and violence are directly related to the absence of opportunities to achieve social mobility through legitimate channels. In many poor communities, the traditional avenues to mobility are inaccessible, either due to perception or the sheer lack of opportunity. Education and employment, the two routes that have most often been prescribed as the way out of the [ghetto], often lead to dead ends for aspiring young people. In light of this reality, young people are faced with four basic choices: they can conform – accepting the dead end job; they can escape – to drug or alcohol addiction; they can innovate – finding ways to circumvent the law to achieve personal goals; or they can rebel – rejecting the system that limits their opportunities.

The Gang Intel Unit of the NYC Police know a great deal about gangs, which building in which housing project is controlled by which gang, the leaders in each gang, smaller crews which spin off from gangs; however, the police are law enforcement. Decades of mayors, from Ed Koch to David Dinkins to Rudy Giuliani to Michael Bloomberg have, to one extent or another concentrated on law enforcement and not addressed the underlying reasons of why gangs exist. .

Research tells us that living in gang-infested neighborhoods; communities which suffer from the traumas of violence have an impact on student learning.

New research shows the mere fact of being poor can affect kids’ brains, making it difficult for them to succeed in school.

Children living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to suffer traumatic incidents, like witnessing or being the victims of shootings, parental neglect or abuse. They also struggle with pernicious daily stressors, including food or housing insecurity, overcrowding and overworked or underemployed, stressed-out parents.

Untreated, researchers have found these events compound, affecting many parts of the body. Studies show chronic stress can change the chemical and physical structures of the brain.

School leaders and teachers must accept the kids that line up at the door – whether or not they are gang members. The effectiveness of school leaders varies widely.

Sitting at a building council the principals from the four schools in the building whined about the incessant fights in the building.

I asked, “Do you talk with the gang leaders?”

A principal responded, “Why would I want to do that?”

I thought, “Because they run your building.”

In another building a principal explained how he identified the gang leadership kids in his building, speaks with them every day, stays up to date on Facebook postings, and uses the influence of the gang leaders to avoid fights and keeps the school calm.

An outside evaluator asked a principal why he didn’t have an afterschool program in a middle school. The principal explained many of his kids pick up younger siblings in elementary schools and kids didn’t feel safe walking home alone – they wanted to walk in groups. The evaluator retorted, “That’s an excuse.” The principal was keeping his kids safe – the evaluator was clueless.

School leaders may have read all the right articles and books, may fully understand the “instructional shifts” and commit the Common Core to memory, if they cannot assure a safe school environment, act as a role model and mentor, lead a team of teachers, and, yes, use the leadership traits of gang members, they will not be successful.

Whether in tony suburban communities or the hardscrabble streets of the inner city building culture defines effective schools.

Unfortunately we can’t wave wands and eradicate poverty and gangs; we can create pathways to a better life for all kids whether or not they belong to gangs.

Black and Latino Males: Why Do a Few Succeed and the Many Fail? Can School Initatives Make the Difference? Are the Obstacles Beyond Schools?

Black males in American society are in trouble. With respect to health, education, employment, income, and overall well-being, all of the most reliable data consistently indicate that Black males constitute a segment of the population that is distinguished by hardships, disadvantages, and vulnerability.
[Introduction, Pedro Noguera, The Trouble with Black Boys and Other Reflections on the Future of Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education (2008)].

For decades social scientists and educators have struggled with a crisis that has become a pandemic, Black males are far more likely to be incarcerated than to finish college. (Black males high school dropouts are 38 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers with four year degrees).

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, in his The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern American (2010) “chronicles the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working class whites and European immigrants … the book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.”

The images of the violent Black male have been reinforced throughout our history, as an example incarceration rates by arrest for similar crimes by race is striking (cocaine versus crack).

As we look at the data, as depressing as it is, there are Black males who succeed in schools; while the overwhelming majority falls by the wayside why do some kids succeed?

The NYC Department of Education and the Open Society Foundations commissioned the University of Pennsylvania to take a close look at 40 NYC high schools that had better data relating to Black males academic achievement. The Report, “Succeeding in the City: A Report from the New York City Black and Latino Male High School Achievement Study (2014) is below,

Read the Report: http://www.gse.upenn,edu/equity/nycReport

The CUNY Institute for Education Policy at the Roosevelt House hosted a panel, “Expanding the Success of Black and Latino Men,” the panel discussed, sort of, the NYC Department of Education Expanding Success Initiative (ESI), the initiatives in the forty schools.

Pedro Noguera, one of the panelists, in a cogent 6 minute presentation diverged from the ESI rhetoric – he pointed to the lack of jobs – Black males with jobs that pay reasonable wages have data indistinguishable from the general population. A surprising percentage of families living in shelters have jobs; however, they cannot afford rents, underlying the “tale of two cities” theme that has dominated the politics of the last few months.

The panel included a researcher who shuffled through her PowerPoint slides and the requisite principal who was proud of his school. I was afraid that the concluding speaker from the Department of Ed would injure herself as she vigorously patted herself on the back.

David Steiner, the moderator asked the principal, “Are you able to hire teachers who you feel are up to the challenges?” and, the principal said, “No.”

Why not? Are schools of education not producing adequately trained teachers? The ESI Report indicates the schools do not hire Teacher for America candidates, who do they hire? The research involved in-depth interviews with over 400 students and the report chronicles the data emanating from the interviews. The outcomes: students with greater social capital, with greater support from the home and/or the community have a greater chance of success.

Are the school techniques and programs scalable to other schools? Did the schools subtlety attract students more likely to succeed as do charter schools? Does the race of the teacher and/or principal matter? Does the educational background of the teachers matter?

Unfortunately, it was not the purpose of the study to explore these conundrums. The converse of the study is equally important, or, perhaps, more important. Why don’t kids succeed? Using the same program design, interview a range of kids who are not succeeding, can we look at subsets of data and predict success/lack of success based on the data? How can we intervene for kids who are not succeeding?

An issue of the moment is school suspensions – around the nation the percent of suspensions of Blacks are much higher than others for the same infractions, and, a deeper question, do suspensions change behaviors, and the counterpart, do alternatives to suspension, example, restorative justice programs, reduce bad behavior? (See AFT Conference on the topic here)

Teachers are proud of our student’s successes – to what extent is the teacher responsible for the success of the student? I agreed to teach a class made up of kids who had all failed the American History Regents but passed the course. I was teaching Economics, the next course in the sequence and preparing the kids for the next try at the American History exam. The data is poor on kids retaking exams- the failure rates are high – with one exception all my kids passed – I was proud – of the kids, and myself. I prodded, I bribed (I rewarded them with Dunkin Donuts), I nudged, and frequent “creative” test prep was the norm.

It wasn’t great instruction – Charlotte Danielson would not have applauded … the kids learned to master non-cognitive skills and working in teams can lead to academic success.

I wasn’t their friend – they didn’t call me by my first name – I said “no” to unreasonable asks, I used groups pressures against individuals, and I had been teaching for a long time.

Was there any “carryover” to other classes? Did they learn “life skills”? I have no idea.

David Steiner and the CUNY Institute deserve accolades for highlighting the topic – a topic that requires a much deeper discussion.

We all, I hope, agree, that schools matter, they matter a whole lot in the life of kids, and for kids living in fragile circumstances they matter much more – schools alone; however, cannot overcome societal obstacles,

We must view schools as part of a larger community and the school will only succeed for a few if the community is not part of the solution. Schools, the police, public health, affordable housing, jobs and the role of faith-based organizations all play a role – it is the synergy of an entire community that makes a difference.

Don’t want to unduly criticize the mayor and chancellor – but – we’re all anxious and willing to jump on board – we’re just waiting for the train.

“Room for Debate,” What are the New York City Education Challenges?

The New York Times invites debaters to comment on a timely issue in the “Room for Debate” blog. This week the topic is “New York City’s Public Education Challenges,” the debaters, Diane Ravitch, Geoffrey Canada, Pedro Noguera and Sol Stern.

The Times frames the debate,

The next mayor of New York City faces some tough challenges particularly when it comes to setting public education priorities. Should he or she abandon Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s fixation on testing and data-driven accountability, or expand school choice and close failing classrooms to give more options to families, especially English-language learners and those in low-income communities?

Diane Ravitch is an amazing woman – she has single handedly grasped the power of social media, she blogs ten times a day and tweets fifty times a day as well as speaking publicly around the nation, and, she had the time to write, “The Reign of Error,” publication date is September 17th. (She said she woke up at 4:30 every morning to write). She is the leader of the intellectual community opposing the (de)former vision of education. Arne Duncan must shiver at the mention of her name!

The subtitle of her book, “The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” is not angry scrry, it an evidence-based examination of the (de)reform agenda using US Department of Education data to skewer faulty claims (I will write a review at the publication date).

Diane’s response is straightforward,

The new mayor needs to abandon the cramped vision of the past decade. Testing, choice and accountability are a strategy to close schools and privatize them. Testing has become the be-all and end-all of schooling. Too much testing crushes creativity and imagination and obliterates the joy of learning. Tests should be used diagnostically, to help students and teachers, not to punish or reward teachers and close schools.

The new mayor should ask, “How can I make sure that there is a good public school in every neighborhood? What can I do to make sure that all children have access to the kind of education I would want for my own child?”

Geoffrey Canada is the CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), the much-touted charter school network. Canada also serves on the Cuomo Commission on Education Reform. The richly funded HCZ is praised all over the nation; the cradle-to-college pipeline has become a model for charter management organizations, the problem: HCZ replicable, it has extremely deep pocketed supporters, with questionable results. Helen Zelon, in City Limits, wrote an in-depth analysis of HCZ and points to a range of mediocre achievement (see Report here).

Canada has been a vigorous supporter of the Bloomberg policies, and argues,

Mayoral control means the next mayor has to continue to take full and unambiguous responsibility for how the city’s schools are working, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done. We need to strengthen our evaluation tools and isolate what’s moving the needle for our kids.

In advocating actions to improve our schools, the next mayor must not be afraid of the reaction from the public or vested interests, in particular in regard to controversial measures such as closing failing schools, continuing to support charter schools and the meaningful evaluation of teachers.

Pedro Noguera, is the Peter L. Agnew professor of education at New York University and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.

Pedro begins his essay with praise for the Bloomberg administration,

Mayor Michael Bloomberg deserves credit for providing leadership that has led to significant improvement in New York’s public schools. Graduation rates have risen, there are more good schools available for New York parents to choose from, and there is a greater sense of accountability present in schools throughout the city.

And goes on to point to the “elephant in the room,” poverty.

First, as poverty rates have risen during the Bloomberg years, schools in New York’s poorest communities have been overwhelmed by a variety of social and economic issues that affect child development and limit school performance. Mayoral control never led to greater coordination among city departments so that social services could be provided to children and families in our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The next mayor will need to coordinate city services — health, recreation, safety, child welfare — and work more closely with nonprofits, hospitals, universities and other institutions to develop systems of support for schools.

Noguera goes on to question the role of the department,

The Department of Education will need to do more than merely judge schools. It must also help schools to improve. Closing schools should be treated as a last resort — not the primary strategy used to deal with struggling schools.

A core question that has been acknowledged and not addressed are English language learners, 41% of children in the NYC schools live in households in which English is not the primary language.

Finally, in a city where over half the children come from homes where English is not spoken, shockingly little has been done to provide support to schools to meet the needs of English-language learners

Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a frequent writer at the Institute’s City Journal, has written on education for decades. Sol has just written an “Advise to the Next Mayor“as well as questioning whether the department truly understands the Common Core.

Sol points to the issue that could very well sidetrack the implementation of the Common Core, the convoluted, impenetrable teacher evaluation plan,

The biggest education challenge our next mayor faces is the flawed teacher evaluation system that has been imposed on the schools by the Bloomberg administration. This so-called accountability reform is demoralizing for teachers and bad for children.

Bloomberg’s “accountability reform” is demoralizing for teachers and bad for children.
The current metric for evaluating teacher quality is based on a complicated algorithm that ranks each teacher based on growth (or “added value”) in his or her students’ test scores, adjusted for students’ socioeconomic status. The problem is that leading testing experts have raised serious questions about the reliability of the value-added methodology. Education researchers who still support the evaluations concede they are unstable and there is a substantial margin of error.

Moreover, test-based rankings for teachers will surely undermine the promising Common Core curriculum changes now being implemented in the schools. Under the Common Core, schools must broaden the curriculum to include “history/social studies science, and other disciplines.” … Under the current accountability system teachers tend to narrow the curriculum.

Therefore the next mayor should suspend the test-based teacher rankings in order to focus the education department’s full attention on successful implementation of the Common Core and new classroom curricula.

Three of the four debaters are sharply critical of the current administration and the fourth, an acolyte of the mayor, praises him and calls for more of the same.

Whomever ends up in Gracie Mansion could do worse than sitting down with Diane, Pedro and Sol, they probably are among the deepest thinkers delving into the direction of the school system, and, have no axe to grind. None are seeking jobs; none owe anything to anyone.

While including the so-called stakeholders, parents and teachers and principal, is crucial, listening to wisdom is vital.

The issues at the mayoral debates: pre-K, co-location of charter schools, network versus geographic districts, etc., while important, the debaters point the system in the right direction: Bill or Bill or Christine, take a deep breathe, and sit down with Diane, Pedro and Sol.