Tag Archives: Universal Pre K

Branding the de Blasio-Farina Vision of Education: Can the “New Guys” Create a Vision for the School System?

New administrations, whether in politics or business, attempt to brand themselves – attempt to set themselves apart from the administration they replaced.

“the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of building loyalty among customers… a fulfillment in customer expectations and consistent customer satisfaction”

Sometimes a simple phrase, FDR’s New Deal branded the new administration. For de Blasio the “tale of two cities” theme has resonated through his policy choices, from ending “stop and frisk,” to a “living wage,” more “affordable housing,” and, of course, ”Universal Pre-Kindergarten,” the campaign to embed the de Blasio brand.

Days after de Blasio took the oath of office the city restarted contract negotiations with the teachers union, removing the impediment of angry teachers and other city workers was crucial.

After Cuomo refused to grant NYC the right to raise taxes to fund PreK the State budget agreement provided adequate dollars for Universal Pre K, although the time frame to implement was short.

As the summer began, and six months into her chancellorship, the whispers started, when was the new administration at Tweed going to lay out its vision, what was going to change?

The old guard, the Bloomberg-Klein devotees worried, for good reason, everything they built would be dismantled, after all, that’s what the Bloomberg administration did; they trashed everything that proceeded.

The Bloomberg administration branded themselves, dismantling decentralization and creating mayoral control, the closing of scores of schools and the creation of hundreds of new schools, supporting new charter schools, the co-location of charter schools in public school building, the letter A to F School Report Cards, all policies, according to Bloomberg, improving a dysfunctional school system: he branded himself: Michael Bloomberg, the educational mayor.

Last week de Blasio fulfilled a campaign pledge, he changed the School Report Card from A to F letters grades to a four-page “Quality Snapshot” and a multiple page “Quality Guide” for staffers with new school descriptions, “exceeding, meeting, approaching or not meeting standards.” Schools, also, will no longer be ranked.

See sample Reports here: http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/default.htm

Chalkbeat reports the criticism,

Groups that supported the previous administration and have been critical of Fariña called her speech a disappointment and said it failed to address head-on the city’s many struggling schools. Even people who praised the new evaluations said it was troubling that the city did not say how it will use the ratings to prop up low-performing schools.

Joseph Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College, said the evaluation shift represents an improvement from the previous administration’s “top-down approach to reform.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “it does not outline a real plan for what [this administration] intends to do with failing schools.”

Chancellor Farina is enormously popular with teachers, her praise of staffs, her emphasis on trust and collaboration, her refusal to close schools, and looked upon with suspicion by the Bloomberg crowd and the “reform” elites.

After all, didn’t they sharply increase graduation rates, close dysfunctional schools, challenge the union, and train dynamic young principals?

While the Bloomberg team was effective in branding themselves as educational innovators and reformers, the NY Post was in their pocket and the NY Daily News usually supportive, and, the NY Times occasionally critical, usually supportive. On the national scene Bloomberg was the education mayor: changing the direction of education in the city.

In reality, the credit recovery fraud, the packing of at-risk kids into schools targeted for closing, questionable marking of regents papers all cast doubt on the increases in graduation rates, and the appalling college and career readiness rates, the disastrous completion rates in community colleges all question the accuracy of the graduation rates.

de Blasio can’t wait a decade to assess the impact of pre-Kindergarten; Farina can’t wait a couple of years to see if reading and math scores jump…

de Blasio and Farina have to take ownership, to brand their approach, to convince the public that their vision of education is best for their children. And, if the vision is unclear, if the new vision looks like older visions, if the Post and the Daily News and elites and decision-makers and the political power structure lose confidence the entire administration can be in trouble.

deBlasio’s Education Plate is Full: PreK, Contracts, Co-Location, Charters and Let’s Not Forget Running a School System.

de Blasio’s education plate runneth over…

Mayors, unlike presidents and governors, don’t have a Congress or a legislature to win over. In New York City the City Council has limited authority, they can “make trouble,” i. e., hold hearings and trash city officials, however the mayor runs the city. deB assured he would have a friend at the council by craftily managing the campaign for speaker. Melissa Mark-Viverito is more than an ally, she is a philosophical partner.

Tonight in Washington President Obama will spend an hour or so laying out his plans for the next year, probably broad strokes with a few specific program initiatives, immediately afterwards the Republicans will trash his ideas, the “official” response and the responses from the 2016 candidates – Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The president’s agenda is held hostages to the guys/gals across the aisle, and, world events over which he has no influence: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Central Africa, and the Ukraine, any of which could explode into a cataclysmic event.

A little simpler in Albany, although the governor requires both houses of the legislature to buy into his spending – tax-cutting agenda, he has been extraordinarily successful in fending off political adversaries.

In City Hall it is the mayor, and the mayor alone, who sets the stage, and, education at the center.

Whoever thought that 4-year olds would dominate the airways and cyber world? The mayor needs Albany to approve a millionaire tax to fund Universal PreK (UPK -all day in all schools) and the governor’s budget does not address a tax increase, it pays for some of the costs, for one year. Under New York State law local tax increases require local approval plus inclusion in the state budget; the headline writers are pumping up a deB v.Cuomo battle over UPK. The state budget will be resolved shortly before the April 1 deadline with intense down to the wire negotiations. The UPK plan, whether the deB plan or the Cuomo plan or some combination is enormously complex, with many, many moving parts – will deB avert an Affordable Care Act meltdown?

The absence of labor contracts for 300,000 city employees – contracts that expired three and four years ago potentially will eat up projected city surpluses and could embed deficits down the road. The unions want full back pay as well as a substantial raise, the mayor, correctly silent, acknowledges the gravity of the problem. Union members have high expectations, and in spite the universal labor support deB will push for “productivity savings,” creative ways to both satisfy unions and reduce costs going forward – with a ticking clock. If no contracts are approved by the end of the school year tempers will fray with more and more references to David Dinkins one-term mayoralty. Would teachers be willing to “trade” dollars for better working conditions? The answer: it depends.

The mayor clearly has a problem with the co-location of charter schools in public school buildings. In the waning days of the Bloomberg years the central board, the Panel for Educational Priorities, PEP, approved many co-locations (see list here). Will deB and Farina reverse the decisions? If they do Eva, the NY Post and the Manhattan Institute will compare deB to Iosif Dzhugashvili and reserve a place for him in the Nineth Circle.

The clumsy, overly complex principal-teacher evaluation plan is part of the upcoming union negotiations, and, an opportunity to simplify the plan, whatever is negotiated requires the approval of Commissioner King.

To date the mayor has been impressive before the public, shoveling snow off his walkway, admitting he could have done better in the recent snow storm, testifying in Albany, he has a firm grasp of the issues, deftly avoids pitfalls and stays on message. New Yorkers, the vast percent of whom voted for him, are getting to know him.

I worked with a principal who, in my judgment was an effective leader. He walked the halls a period or two every day, greeting kids, ducking into classrooms and asking kids a question or two, shooting a few hoops in the gymnasium, explain to teachers why their lesson or their behavior was lacking, writing nice notes of commendation, and an occasional counseling memo memorializing unacceptable conduct. And, of course, he had an open door, he was accessible to all. He was a leader.

deB seems to be in the same mold. You could probably argue with him over whether the Knicks would be better if Melo had more assists, or not, and, he’d have an opinion. Bloomberg would, of course, be cluesless.

Will we feel the same way next fall? Or, will the early days of seduction and allure be soured?