Tag Archives: receivership

Creating an ESSA Accountability Plan Without Re-Creating Another NCLB

New York State is making every attempt to include whomever wants to be involved in the creation of the Every State Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plan. A series of facilitated engagement sessions across the state, an online survey and an all-day retreat of the entire board facilitated by Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute and Scott Marion, Center for Assessment.

Almost seven hours of discussion, a working lunch, with another session next Tuesday after the scheduled regents meeting.

Read a couple of hundred pages of supporting documents here.

Read my live-time tweets from the meeting at #edinthepple

Under the new law, ESSA, each state must construct an accountability plan, which means, within the confines of the law, select indicators, including but not limited to standardized test scores that will identify the lowest 5% of schools.

An overriding question: proficiency (only giving credit for a fixed point, a score) versus growth (progress for last year to this year) – how do combine the two concepts?

The entire board wants to include equity, how do you define and measure equity?

How many indicators do you want to identify? Remember, you must include standardized test scores.

Let’s get deeper into the weeds, should you weight the indicators?  Scott Marion, one of the facilitators gave examples of weighted indicators, the many paths all lead to identifying the bottom 5% in the state.

A number of the regents were getting edgy, Regent Johnson asked: Are we recreating NCLB?

The regents questions increased:

How do you account for schools/districts that have substantially differing access to supports due to lack of dollars and geographic constraints?  How do you “compare” schools with large percentages of ELL and Special Education with schools with much smaller percentages? Poverty really, really matters: how do we account for poverty in a plan? Should you reward schools with large percentages of kids who graduate with higher level diplomas?  If so, are we rewarding parental income and education rather than school achievement?

When the dust settles we’re going to have the same number of  lowest performing schools: will we be identifying schools with the same characteristics?  Schools in the highest poverty zip codes in the state?.

(Take a look at Center for NYC Affairs A Better Picture of Poverty report).

Once we identify the schools, how do we report the results?  letter grades? number grades? other options? That “scarlet letter” problem: shame and punish or identify, assist and improve?

The identified lowest 5% schools must use “evidence-based” solutions, the term “evidence-based” is defined in detail in the law. Should the state have an “approved list” of interventions?  Should schools pick off the approved list or have discretion as long as they are evidence-based?

As we discussed the issue of interventions the state staffer leading the discussion seemed to be recreating the same state interventions we are currently utilizing. Basically the state sends a outside contracted assessor into a school with a checklist, using a state rubric.

A SED staffer asked:

Should teachers new to 5% schools have to be rated “effective” or “highly effective” in their previous schools?  The problem is staff retention, “effective” and “highly effective” teachers tend to leave and move to more successful schools and the 5% schools are staffed with newer teachers. There was no discussion of teacher retention and the high teacher turnover rate in the lowest ranked schools.

Should principals have had successful experience in leading similar schools? Should they receive special training? Sounds like the state might want to move towards a Principal’s Academy approach, not successful in New York City.

To what extent should the state interventions be proscribed (top-down) or created and owned by the school? Top-down approaches only work with school district leadership that is skilled, in most places authoritarian leadership is resented in the trenches.

How do you differentiate between schools in NYC, the “big four” (Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and Yonkers), small. rural schools/districts?

The ominous sword hanging over the process is not ESSA, its the New York State Receivership Law. For schools that continue to stumble, by which I mean fail to get off the 5% list, or, get off and fall back on the school faces closing, combining with another school or receivership.  In 2015 the governor aggressively pushed the concept.  I wrote about receivership: click to read:  “Cuomo. ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ and Receivership: Whipping School Communities Does Not Create More Effective Schools, Working Together Really Does Work,” and “Receivership: A Magic Bullet for Struggling Schools or Another Chimera: Castor Oil or Ambrosia.”

To be clear, there was no mention of receivership at the plenary session, in the small group meeting a State Education staffer responding to the dilemma of “on, off and on” the 5% list indicated the next step was receivership.

At the end of the day the commissioner mentioned the section of the law that allows for up to seven states to apply for pilot status, to create assessment tools other than standardized tests. The feds have not issued an application, and may not; however, the commissioner and the regents expressed considerable interest. In the hundreds of pages of materials one was a brief description of alternative assessments (Take a look here)

Back on Tuesday afternoon for the continuation of the discussion, a draft plan at the May board meeting, public comments, approval by governor, August submission to the feds.

Kudos to the commissioner, the chancellor and the board members active participation along a winding and complex path. To quote the president, “This is complicated.”

Advertisements

The Board of Regents Convene With a Contentious Agenda and the Ominous Shadow of the Governor

Wednesday morning the seventeen members of the Board of Regents and the newly selected commissioner will convene in the ornate Regents Room to begin the 15-16 school year. Oddly the agenda, to a large extent, has been set “across the street,” on the second floor of the Capital building, the executive offices of the governor.

Education policy for two centuries was set by the members of the regents with significant input from the commissioner. Commissioners worked their way up the ladder, from teacher to principal to superintendent to commissioner; all that changed in the last few years. David Steiner came from the university and John King had no public school experience, in fact, only limited experience in the world of charter schools. The newly selected commissioner returns us to the world of experienced educators.

In the current convoluted landscape of education the governor has effectively replaced the regents: adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a massive labyrinthine principal/teacher evaluation system, the receivership of struggling schools have been set in legislation by the governor with the regents being asked to set regulations in place.

The unpaid, un-staffed members of the regents are “elected” by a joint meeting of the NYS legislature. In reality the democrats select the members; there are far more democrats than republicans in the combined houses. In the last session the legislature dumped two of the most senior members of the regents and selected four new members (three incumbents were re-elected, there were two vacancies and two regents replaced); three former school superintendents and one nurse educator (the State Education Department is in charge of all schools, pre-k through college, all museums and libraries and the professions).

The four new members and two second-term regents members have formed a caucus to oppose the approval of the governor’s new matrix principal/teacher evaluation plan (3012-d); the debate will be lively.

The regents will approve regulations for the completely untried receivership law; if low performing schools fail to make progress, as defined in the regulations, the school may be removed from the district and placed under the supervision of a receiver who has sweeping power. (See Regents agenda here).

Not only has the governor seized control of the education agenda the feds have been the agenda-setter for all of the states. The feds require that after being in the country for one year all English Language Learners in Grades 3-8 must be tested regardless of their English language skills. The feds denied the NYS waiver request and the regents and the commissioner are asking the feds to reconsider.

The regents are forming a working group to discuss the pass/fail rates on the new Common Core Regents exams; we are currently in year three of the eight year phase-in of Common Core Regents; the grades are currently scaled to keep pass-fail rates at the same level as before the Common Core: are students making adequate progress in passing the new Regents, and, if not, how should the regents members respond?

Regent Cashin is highlighting the new testing regimen for prospective teachers who are required to pass four exams at a cost of about $1,000; the exams are timed and computer-based: are the exams accurate predictors of success? Are the high failure rates the result of selecting the wrong candidates, faulty college curriculum or simply poorly crafted exams? In an era of sharply declining enrollments in college teacher education programs the poorly designed Pearson-created exams should not be an unnecessary impediment.

While the funding of schools is the responsibility of the governor and the legislature the 2% property tax cap is resulting in drastic cuts in services in low wealth districts, of which there are several hundred located in rural districts with declining revenues. The regents can highlight and recommend changes to the “other side of the street.”

How will the regents address the large numbers of Students with Disabilities who are unable to “pass” grades 3-8 tests and unable to achieve the safety net requirements on the Regents exams? Should the regents create alternative pathways to graduation? Portfolios?

In some schools English Language learners are making progress similar to all other students while in others the majority of students are graduating at extremely low rates: Why? Higher or lower levels of instruction? Better professional development? Better designed instructional models?

Educational decisions, as the state constitution intended, should be made by the Board of Regents. Hopefully the governor will move away from his senseless policies that have antagonized parents and teachers across the state.

Far reaching education policies crafted behind closed doors by invisible staffers is not a fruitful path to better education. The two hundred thousand op-outers will grow and grow; the angry electorate will continue to grow.

Hopefully the governor will rethink his ideas and the legislature will continue to select regent members willing to challenge the governor as well as collaboratively develop approaches to address the core issues confronting children and families across the state.

Does Mario Define Andrew? The Governor Begins His Path to the White House on the Backs of Parents and Teachers

“The connection a man has with his father shapes his life. Which is why every adult son must choose how that relationship will – or won’t – define him.”

As the story goes the charter was sitting on the runway waiting for Mario to announce his candidacy for the presidency and fly off to New Hampshire to campaign for the “first in the nation” primary. The plane waited, and waited, and Mario defaulted. He never caught the plane.

Although not a psychologist I believe this “event” has dominated Andrew’s life, he will never allow the plane to linger on the runway, he will never miss the plane.

Deep in Cuomo Central every step, every speech, every policy is carefully plotted to situate Andrew on the spectrum of potential Democrats. Critics scoff, Andrew can never run for president!! Who was the junior senator from Illinois in 2006, an Afro-American with a Muslim name running for the highest office in the land. Obama overturned the classic progressive-labor-minority coalition, he created a new coalition, hostile to labor, appealing to -baby boomers and creating new voters and activists, first time and young voters who were passionately involved in his election, a campaign that raised mega-dollars and mastered social media.

Cuomo is “inventing” his own democratic coalition. progressive on social issues (marriage equality, the women rights agenda, the Dreamer Act), conservative on economic issues (property tax cap, tax cuts, working closely with business, new casinos) and joining the Obama-DFER views on education: rigid, test-based teacher accountability, charter schools, annual high stakes student testing, merit pay, school closings and “school receivership.”

As the Governor enters his second term his approval ratings, are sky high,

“On the eve of his fifth State of the State address, voters statewide give Cuomo the best favorability rating he’s had since July,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. “He’s viewed favorably by more than three-quarters of Democrats and New York City voters and favorably by independents and downstate suburbanites. Upstate voters are evenly divided and Republicans are decidedly unfavorable.”

The independent Quinnipiac University Poll gives Cuomo gets a 71 – 23 percent approval rating in New York City.

Cuomo skillfully negotiated a Republican landslide. As the polls increasingly tilted to the Republicans Cuomo aggressively raised money, lots and lots of money, and, turned off the faucet for his opponent. The charter school Political Action Committee (PAC) was dangling millions and Cuomo snapped it up, antagonizing teachers. For a while it looked like the newly elected New York City Mayor might challenge Cuomo, Andrew refused to allow de Blasio to fund Universal Pre-K through a millionaire tax and also forced be Blasio to pay for charter school rent if space was not available in public schools. There was only one king in New York State.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) chipped away at Cuomo during his first term, and although they made no endorsement clearly union members were tilting toward his primary opponent and stayed home in November.

In his State of the State (Watch here) the Governor cut any relationship with teachers and their unions, and, with approval ratings at the top of the scale he’s betting he doesn’t need teachers, or, for that matter, parents.

Cuomo decided to hold education dollars hostage to changes in the law.

For months the Regents have been crafting a budget proposal, the final budget request was for an increase of $2 billion and continuing the phase out of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The Governor’s plan: you’re entitled to $300 million which I will increase $1.2 billion if the legislature approves my agenda:

Governor’s K-12 Agenda:

* Increase the probationary period from three to five years
* Increase the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation plans from 20% to 50%
* “Receivership,” turning low performing schools over to not-for-profits, with wide discretion including terminating collective bargaining agreements.
* Strip away due process rights in teacher dismissal cases
* Increase the charter cap by 100 statewide
* Increase charter school funding
* A tax credit for contributions to private and religious schools
* Tying college teacher prep programs to candidate test scores

The Governor is attempting to bundle his “K-12 Agenda” into the budget, school districts receive additional dollars in exchange for his agenda – all done by April 1.

For the next ten weeks the Legislature and the Governor will posture, will pontificate, will offer and threaten, hordes and hordes of citizen lobbyists will descend on Albany and the “three men in a room” will negotiate.

If the budget does not pass, a complex pied-a-deux, the legislature and the Governor dance toward a budget, item by item, with power tilting toward the Governor.

Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Dean Skelos the Republican majority leader of the Senate and the guv’s guys will play high stakes poker, really high stakes.

It was not surprising that the Governor ended his speech with the same words his father ended his State of the State with in 1983.

“For all the ceremony, and the big house, and all the pomp and circumstance, please don’t let me forget what makes New York New York.”

And, to himself, “Don’t worry Dad, I won’t make the same mistake, when the time comes, I’m ready.”