Archives for category: Bloomberg, Michael

Blogger Chaz’s School Daze explains why the NYU study on the “success” of closing large high schools and replacing them with small high schools is bogus.

He writes:

“This week, NYU released a study showing that students fared better with the closing of the many large comprehensive high schools and replaced by the Bloomberg small schools. The basis for the study’s conclusion was the increased graduation rate from the small schools when compared to the closed schools. However, the study is fatally flawed since the graduation rate is a bogus parameter and easily manipulated by the school Principal to allow students to graduate academically unprepared for college and career. Let’s look at how schools manipulate the graduation rate.”

I posted Leonie Haimson’s critique of this Gates-funded study, which relied on the views and insights of those in charge of designing and implementing the policy in the NYC Department of Education.

Chaz points out that the study ignored the pressure on teachers in the new small schools to pass students; the pressure on principals to raise graduation rates; and the widespread use of fraudulent “credit recovery” to hand diplomas to low-performing students.

The data on graduation rates are made meaningless by these corrupt practices. The researchers did not see fit to examine nefarious ways of graduating students who were unprepared for college or careers.

Chaz points out that educators in Atlanta went to jail and lost their licenses for changing grades. Why was there no investigation or prosecution of equally serious actions in Néw York City?


Leonie Haimson is a fearless advocate for students, parents, and public schools. She runs a small but mighty organization called Class Size Matters (I am one of its six board members), she led the fight for student privacy that killed inBloom (the Gates’ data mining agency), and she is a board member of the Network for Public Education. None of these are paid positions. Passion beats profits.


In this post on the New York City parent blog, she takes a close look at a new report that lauds the Bloomberg policy of closing public schools as a “reform” strategy. The report was prepared by the Research Alliance at New York University, which was launched with the full cooperation of the by the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg years (Joel Klein was a member of its board when it started).


Haimson takes strong exception to the report’s central finding–that closing schools is good for students–and she cites a study conducted by the New School for Social Research that reached a different conclusion. (All links are in the post.)


Furthermore, she follows the money–who paid for the study: Gates and Ford, then Carnegie. Gates, of course, put many millions into the small schools strategy, and Carnegie employs the leader of the small schools strategy.


Haimson writes:


“The Research Alliance was founded with $3 million in Gates Foundation funds and is maintained with Carnegie Corporation funding, which help pay for this report. These two foundations promoted and helped subsidize the closing of large schools and their replacement with small schools; although the Gates Foundation has now renounced the efficacy of this policy. Michele Cahill, for many years the Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation, led this effort when she worked at DOE.


“The Research Alliance has also been staffed with an abundance of former DOE employees from the Bloomberg era. In the acknowledgements, the author of this new study, Jim Kemple, effusively thanks one such individual, Saskia Levy Thompson:


[He wrote:] ‘The author is especially grateful for the innumerable discussions with Saskia Levy Thompson about the broader context of high school reform in New York City over the past decade. Saskia’s extraordinary insights were drawn from her more than 15 years of work with the City’s schools as a practitioner at the Urban Assembly, a Research Fellow at MDRC, a Deputy Chancellor at the Department of Education and Deputy Director for the Research Alliance.’


Levy Thompson was Executive Director of the Urban Assembly, which supplied many of the small schools that replaced the large schools, leading to better outcomes according to this report — though one of these schools, the Urban Assembly for Civic Engagement, is now on the Renewal list.


After she left Urban Assembly, Levy Thompson joined MDRC as a “Research Fellow,” despite the fact that her LinkedIn profile indicates no relevant academic background or research skills. At MRDC, she “helped lead a study on the effectiveness of NYC’s small high schools,” confirming the efficacy of some of the very schools that she helped start. Here is the first of the controversial MRDC studies she co-authored in 2010, funded by the Gates Foundation, that unsurprisingly found improved outcomes at the small schools. Here is my critique of the follow-up MRDC report.


“In 2010, Levy Thompson left MRDC to head the DOE Portfolio Planning office, tasked with creating more small schools and finding space for them within existing buildings, which required that the large schools contract or better yet, close.


“And where is she now? Starting Oct. 5, Saskia Levy Thompson now runs the Carnegie Corporation’s Program for “New Designs for Schools and Systems,” under LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, another former DOE Deputy Chancellor from the Bloomberg era Here is the press release from Carnegie’s President, Vartan Gregorian:


“‘We are delighted that Saskia, who has played an important role in reforming America’s largest school system, is now joining the outstanding leader of Carnegie Corporation’s Education Program, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, in overseeing our many investments in U.S. urban education.'”


Concludes Haimson:


“How cozy! In this way, a revolving door ensures that the very same DOE officials who helped close these schools continue to control the narrative, enabling them to fund — and even staff — the organizations that produce the reports that retroactively justify and help them perpetuate their policies.”



Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office in January 1, 2014. One of his legacies was the changes he made in the school system over 12 years of total control.

Today the Néw York Post says his “reforms” were disastrous, and the only hope for children in the city’s public schools is escape to a privately managed charter school.

The Post writes about the Bloomberg reforms:

“New York’s public-school system is an ongoing horror — one that traps hundreds of thousands of kids in schools that don’t work, “tracked” into dead-end “promotions” to equally bad schools that lead to worthless diplomas and limited economic opportunities for the rest of their lives.”

The Post has long–at least since Rupert Murdoch owned it–loathed public schools, their teachers and administrators, and unions.

So the editorial says that the “obvious solution”–based on a study commissioned by billionaire hedge fund managers who have the chutzpah to call themselves “Families for Excellent Schools”—is more charter schools.

Why not?

Let Eva do it! Let her open her schools to the children with severe cognitive impairments, the students who can’t speak or read English, the kids right out of the juvenile justice system! She should show what she can do.

She has a chance to demonstrate that her schools are replicable for all, not merely a triumph of skimming and attrition.

Over the past few days, the New York Post (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who hates public schools and loves charter schools) has been flogging a scandal. The Post published a story by a young woman who said she got a high school diploma from a New York City public high school when she should have been failed. She hated school, she skipped classes, she should never have been allowed to graduate. Then the Post “discovered” that many students were graduating by taking “credit recovery” online classes, where they could make up for a failed course in a few weeks. In other words, the soaring graduation rates of which the Bloomberg administration boasted, are fake.

But the Post didn’t want to blame Bloomberg, whom they regularly hailed for expanding charters and cracking down on the public schools. They wanted to blame Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom they frequently ridicule as a hapless fool, and his schools chancellor, Carmen Farina.

Here is the sordid story, told by Perdidostreetschool blogger. The story is told by Harris Lirtzman, former Director of Risk Management for the New York City Retirement Systems in the NYC Comptroller’s Office from 1996-2002 and former Deputy State Comptroller for Administration from 2003-2007. Lirtzman was an untenured teacher in the Bronx from 2009-2012 and was pressured to pass unqualified students to boost the high school graduation rate to at least 70%. That was the target.

Credit recovery became widely accepted during the Bloomberg era as a way to raise graduation rates. The New York Post applauded Bloomberg’s reforms, especially charter schools, but they ignored the use of credit recovery to inflate the graduation rate. Many critics–such as Leonie Haimson–complained about credit recovery, but they were ignored by the Department of Education and the media. In 2011, she testified about credit recovery and other means of playing with data to make the graduation rate go higher. The New York Post didn’t report her testimony or show any subsequent interest in credit recovery. What the Post–or the New York Times– should do now is an in-depth investigation of credit recovery. When is it valid, when is it not? How many students rely on simple online courses to make up for semester-long or year-long courses that they failed? Which firms are profiting by supplying this quick fix? Some might justify credit recovery by saying that it is better for the student to have a high school diploma that was obtained through credit recovery than to be a dropout. If so, let’s have that discussion.

After a lengthy investigation, NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina fired the principal of John Dewey High School for faking graduation rates.

Teachers at the school had complained about the principal for years. They had also reported the fakery.

The Bloomberg administration had selected the principal Kathleen Elvin to lead the “turnaround” of 33 schools but the courts blocked the closures. She then became principal of John Dewey, where teachers frequently complained about her harsh methods.

Geoffrey Decker of NY Chalkbeat writes:

“When Kathleen Elvin took over troubled John Dewey High School in March 2012, she had a mandate to turn it around. And by at least one measure, she pulled off the job in barely two years.

“But Dewey’s soaring graduation rates, which increased 13 points under Elvin, were bolstered by an illicit credit recovery program, a city investigation has found. A long-awaited report on the probe, released Wednesday by the city’s Office of Special Investigations, concluded that Elvin supervised the set-up, in which students received credits toward graduation with no instruction from teachers.”

One of the boasts of the Bloomberg-era “reformers” was the city’s rising graduation rates. To what extent was that due to similar tactics?

Campbell’s Law rules again. When test scores or graduation rates become the basis for rewards and punishments, people go to extraordinary and sometimes unethical lengths to reach the target.

Governor Andrew Cuomo released a report which identified 178 “failing schools,” with more than half in Néw York City. His report was an implicit–if unintended–critique of mayoral control, since the schools in Néw York City have been under mayoral control since 2002.

Cuomo wants the state to take control of the schools he named and turn them over to private management organizations.

“The report aims to bolster Cuomo’s argument that the state should be allowed to seize control of the schools and hand them over to outside organizations. Cuomo’s takeover plan would allow “receivers” to restructure the low-ranked schools, overhaul their curriculums, and override labor agreements in order to fire “underperforming” teachers and administrators.

For another perspective, read Bruce Baker as he rips apart “Angry Andy’s” list of “failing schools,” most of which have been shortchanged by the state.

Baker writes:

“NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office has released a report in which it identifies what it refers to in bold type on the cover as “Failing Schools.”
Report here:

“Presumably, these are the very schools on which Angy Andy would like to impose death penalties – or so he has opined in the past.

“The report identifies 17 districts in particular that are home to failing schools. The point of the report is to assert that the incompetent bureaucrats, high paid administrators and lazy teachers in these schools simply aren’t getting the job done and must be punished/relieved of their duties. Angry Andy has repeatedly vociferously asserted that he and his less rabid predecessors have poured obscene sums of funding into these districts for decades. Thus – it’s their fault – certainly not his, for why they stink!”

“I have addressed over and over again on this blog the plight of high need, specifically small city school districts under Governor Cuomo.

“On how New York State crafted a low-ball estimate of what districts needed to achieve adequate outcomes and then still completely failed to fund it.
On how New York State maintains one of the least equitable state school finance systems in the nation.

“On how New York State’s systemic, persistent underfunding of high need districts has led to significant increases of numbers of children attending school with excessively large class sizes.

“On how New York State officials crafted a completely bogus, racially and economically disparate school classification scheme in order to justify intervening in the very schools they have most deprived over time.

“I have also written reports on New York State’s underfunding of the school finance formula – a formula adopted to comply with prior court order in CFE v. State.

“Statewide Policy Brief with NYC Supplement: BBaker.NYPolicyBrief_NYC
50 Biggest Funding Gaps Supplement: 50 Biggest Aid Gaps 2013-14_15_FINAL

“Among my reports is one in which I identified the 50 districts with the biggest state aid shortfalls with respect to what the state itself says these districts require for providing a sound basic (constitutional standard) education. Districts across NY state have funding gaps for a variety of reasons, but I have shown in the past that it is generally districts with greater needs – high poverty concentrations & more children with limited English language proficiency, as well as more minority children – which tend to have larger funding gaps.

“I have also pointed out very recently on this blog that some high need upstate cities in NY have had persistently inequitable/inadequate funding for decades……

“Personally, even I was shocked to see the relationship between my 50 most underfunded districts list and Angry Andy’s 17 districts that suck.
NY State has over 650 school districts, many of which may be showing relatively low test scores for a variety of reasons, including & especially due to serving high concentrations of needy students.”

On January 22, NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina announced her plan to eliminate the “Children’s First Networks” and to restore district superintendents. The Bloomberg-Klein administration reorganized the sprawling 1.1 million student school system three or four times, and their last reorganization created non-geographical “networks.” (When I visited Philadelphia two years ago, outside consultants were recommending the NYC networks as a model for Philadelphia.) Farina here explains to ABNY (the Association for a Better New York) why the networks functioned poorly and how the new structure will work.

Farina expresses pride in the rapid implementation of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign pledge to open pre-K for four
-year-olds and after school programs for middle-schoolers.

She also talks about the de Blasio administration’s determination to help 94 struggling schools instead of closing them

Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s Remarks on Strong Schools, Strong Communities


Chancellor Fariña’s remarks as prepared

Good morning! It’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank ABNY for the invitation, and Bill Rudin for his warm welcome.

I also want to thank everyone who came out today. Whether you’re a business leader, an educator, a parent, a policymaker, or some other type of civic leader, you’re here because you care about our children.

I am personally grateful for all that you’ve done for them – and I am counting on your help to create the best urban school district in the country, bar none.

Because let’s be honest – it’s going to take an all-out, five-borough, unified effort to change the status quo and fix our schools for good.

The status quo is simply unacceptable. We are failing far too many of our kids, with dire consequences that ripple out far beyond individual families. This is a make-or-break issue not just for our city, but for our children’s city – our grandchildren’s city.

Today I am announcing a change that is commensurate to the challenge we face. But before we start talking about the future, I’m going to indulge my love of history and talk a little about the past.

Specifically, I’m going to tell you about my journey as an educator – which begins with my first experiences as a student.

I was born in 1943 to a family that moved to Brooklyn to escape the Spanish Civil War. I didn’t speak English when I started school, and my teacher marked me absent every day because I never raised my hand during roll call.

I wasn’t being disobedient – I just never heard my name being called. It turns out my teacher was mispronouncing my last name, and my dad had to come down to the school to make sure I was marked present and teach her how to say it.

In high school, without my knowledge, I was placed on a non-academic track. I took typing and stenography, all in preparation for a much different life than the one I imagined for myself.

So how did I get off that track and end up here today? Naturally, an outstanding teacher deserves a lot of credit. Her name was Sister Leonard, and she saw that even back then, I wasn’t willing to settle for the status quo. I knew that I was capable of more – and so did Sister Leonard.

With Sister Leonard’s help, I caught up on the math classes I missed and eventually made it to college – the first in my family to do so.

I decided to become a teacher because I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling than helping children reach their true potential. And even back then, I hoped that I could somehow play a role in fixing the underlying problems that had stifled the ambitions of so many of my peers.

In 1965, I began my career as a teacher at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. My work was guided by the lesson Sister Leonard taught me:

Every child has potential. And every educator has the responsibility to do whatever it takes to help that child realize her dreams.

I certainly wasn’t a perfect teacher, but I’ll tell you this: I gave it my all, day-in and day-out.

I held parent-teacher conferences at my house in Brooklyn. I brought an old refrigerator box to class and turned it into a reading nook, complete with a skylight and pillows. On the Bicentennial, I took my students down to Philadelphia to celebrate.

Of course, my most important work was done in the classroom. I sometimes had up to 40 students, but I made it a point to forge a personal connection with each child. And I tailored my curriculum to reflect what I had learned about their strengths and needs.

For example, I had two students who loved to debate – Josh and Alex. In those days, most teachers considered the term “healthy debate” an oxymoron, but I decided to take a different approach.

I made Josh and Alex our classroom lawyers, and I assigned them to write opposing briefs on whatever topic we were discussing that day.

Thanks to their hard work, our day was always full of boisterous discussion – we had some really great debates in that class. The type where everyone – myself included – walks away having learned something.

Strategies like that didn’t just make teaching more fun – they got results.

My classes always scored above average and I was recognized as citywide Teacher of the year in 1981.

After more than two decades in the classroom, in 1991 I accepted an offer to become the Principal of P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side.

My M.O. was simple: My staff and I were going to turn a good school into a great school. And we were going to do that by getting to know each and every student.

Some teachers bought in immediately and already had the tools they needed to thrive.

Some teachers bought in, but needed new tools. So I used every means at my disposal to provide them with training and connect them to colleagues whose skills matched their needs.

Finally, some teachers were either unwilling or unable to get with the program – and those teachers had to go.

That process was often more congenial than you’d expect. I remember one teacher in particular, a lovely woman who walked into my office one day looking very serious.

She understood what we were trying to do, and she understood why it was important. Her abilities simply didn’t match up with the school’s new direction, and she chose to leave the next year. I still think back on her with great fondness.

Again, I’m not too modest to let you know that this approach got results. Under my leadership, P.S. 6 saw real progress and was a leader in the City in reading and math scores.

I was eventually appointed District Regional Superintendent and then Deputy Chancellor. Although my responsibilities changed, my approach remained the same.

Whether supervising students, teachers or principals, I worked to forge a personal connection, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and connect them to the support they needed.

My expectations were clear and I held people accountable for meeting them.

Over my first three months as a superintendent, I had a one-on-one conversation with each of the more than 150 principals in my region.

I asked all of them three questions:

1) What changes do you think I need to make as a superintendent?
2) What do you do well that you’re willing to share?
3) What would you like to do better?

I then matched each principal with a colleague whose strengths matched his or her needs. I’m happy to report that some of them are still friends.

For the most part, this approach was remarkably successful. But when it didn’t work, I was hands-on in making the necessary changes.

As a parent myself, I understood that the needs of our students were my first, second and third priorities.

I share these stories to give you a sense of who I am as a person – and as a leader.

Collaboration and accountability are of paramount importance. Every teacher and every principal should know where we’re headed. And their supervisors should have an accurate picture of their school’s strengths and weaknesses and know how to use their resources wisely.

Mayor de Blasio shares my vision of a school system built on collaboration and accountability. He and I have worked together for nearly 20 years, so we’ve been able to hit the ground running.

To say that I’m proud of all that we accomplished in our first year would be an understatement.

We delivered on a promise many thought was nothing more than a dream: providing 53,000 four-year-olds with high-quality full-day pre-kindergarten. Our four-year-olds are learning new vocabulary words, exploring the natural world through interactive science experiments, and picking up critical interpersonal skills.

Next year, we will expand the system to reach every eligible child.

We launched the largest expansion of after-school programs for sixth to eighth graders in the City’s history. This means more of our parents and guardians are sleeping a little more soundly, secure in the knowledge that their children can explore their talents in the arts, a physical activity, or debate club and have somewhere safe and engaging to go after the final bell rings.

We launched the Community Schools initiative, which will engage parents and local non-profits as true partners in providing services that address the real-life needs of students and their families.

I know that sounds a little jargon-y, but it means schools are home to the resources families need – like dental clinics, medical clinics, or literacy classes for parents.

We agreed on contracts with the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

And these contracts are about a lot more than money – they will spur innovation throughout our schools. We negotiated to create the PROSE program, which allows school leaders and teachers to color outside the line regarding work rules and innovative programs and policies.

Finally, we have engaged in a citywide effort to engage parents as our partners. I have done Town Halls across the city and hosted all day parent conferences at Tweed where I listen to parents and I answer their questions.

All of these initiatives were accomplished on a tight timeline, and they required us to push the system hard.

I will draw on these early successes – along with my five decades in education – as I pursue my next, and most critical goal: Fixing the system that supports and holds accountable each and every one of our schools.

Put simply, we need to do a much better job of making sure all of our students graduate prepared for college and careers that haven’t even been invented yet.

And that means doing a much better job evaluating our schools, identifying problems, and holding ourselves accountable for fixing those problems.

Today, I’m going to tell you about three major changes we are undertaking. Two of them I announced last year, and the other I am announcing today.

As any teacher can tell you, when presenting a lot of information, it’s important to have an outline.

So I’m going to briefly introduce each change, and then I’ll go on to explain them in greater detail. Each is common sense.

Number One: We are providing schools with a new roadmap for improvement. We call it the “Framework for Great Schools,” and it is based on the latest research into what makes good schools good.

We have also revised the school report card, creating parent-friendly school snapshots. The new report includes more and better data, and will help parents make informed decisions about their child’s education.

Number Two: We are investing $150 million and our very best thinking into 94 struggling schools.

We call it the Renewal Schools Initiative, and it will provide targeted schools with an extra hour of learning time, mental health services, after-school programs, teacher training, and much more.

We fully expect this investment to pay off in the terms of improved student outcomes, and if it doesn’t we will hold the schools accountable.

All options are on the table when it comes to turning around struggling schools.

Number Three: This is the new stuff – I am announcing that we will streamline and align the school support structure.

That means eliminating the structure referred to as Children First Networks and replacing them with stronger superintendents and Borough Field Support Centers.

Now lets circle back to the first change I mentioned: our new Framework for Great Schools.

I know that term is still new to a lot of you, but it’s actually common sense: the Framework for Great Schools is a tool to diagnose a school’s strengths and the areas that need improvement.

Speaking of common sense, many of the ideas embedded in the framework will resonate deeply with longtime educators like me – and that’s because it is based on ideas that originated in schools that have beat the odds and improved year after year.

Let me elaborate: When I walk through a school, I look for very specific clues that will reveal whether it’s on the right track or the wrong track.

Is there student work on the walls? Is there conversation in the classrooms? Is the principal clearly in command? Is the staff receptive to suggestions? Is there evidence of family engagement?

It doesn’t take me very long to get a good sense of where the school is headed.

But we can’t just dispatch a bunch of gray-haired educators to roam the halls of our schools.

We need a systematic way of assessing every school. That’s where the Framework for Great Schools comes in.

The Framework’s foundation was developed at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research. The researchers looked at schools that beat the odds and asked: “Why did they succeed where others failed? What do these schools have in common?”

They then identified the six attributes you find at almost all of the best schools:

Rigorous Instruction: The classes are academically demanding. They engage students by challenging them to apply their newfound knowledge.

Collaborative Teachers: The staff is wholeheartedly committed to the school. They receive strong training, and they work together to address areas of improvement.

Supportive Environment: The school is safe and orderly. Teachers have high expectations for students, whose individual needs are supported by their teachers and peers.

Strong Ties to Family and Community: The entire staff understands the importance of building strong relationships with families and the community.

Effective Leaders: The principal and other school leaders work with fellow teachers, school staff, families, and students to implement a clear and strategic vision for school success. An effective leader must be a clear communicator.

Trust: The entire school community works to establish and maintain trusting relationships. These relationships enable families, teachers, and principals to take the risks they need to overcome odds that are often enormous.

Using surveys and up-to-date data, we can measure how schools stack up on each measure.

The researchers found that schools that were strong on all six measures were 10 times more likely to improve reading scores, math scores and attendance. They were also 30 times less likely to stagnate.

We found the same here in New York City.

In looking at 2013 evaluations, schools that were strong on these measures were six times more likely to score over the city average on English. They were also more likely to score above the average in math.

We will be evaluating every school in terms of the six measures. We will target support to areas where a school is weak, and we will hold the school accountable for demonstrating improvement.

It’s about meeting schools where they are. Schools that are struggling on all six measures will get a lot of targeted help where needed.

Schools that only need help with one or two measures will receive less help – and will share more of their success – because they’re already on the right track.

But improving how we evaluate schools is only part of the solution.

We also need to create a better way of sharing what we find with principals, teachers, and parents.

This fall, we announced a new report card for schools. We will produce two versions for each school.

The School Quality Snapshot provides a concise, user-friendly picture of the quality of each school, designed with parents in mind.

The School Quality Guide provides a more robust set of information about each school.

Both guides will contain much of the baseline information that you’ve seen in previous report cards:

– State test scores
– Graduation rates
– Regents pass rates
– A school’s track record in closing the achievement gap
– Other predictors of success in college, career, and beyond

All of this information will be shown in comparison to the average scores of other schools in the district, and across the city. And we are setting ambitious and clear annual targets for all schools, for everyone to see.

We are providing the public with more data. We are providing them with better data. We are making that data easier to understand.

The information we’re gathering will be a crucial tool for our superintendents when it comes to directing resources where they need to go and making tough decisions about the future of a given school, especially those that are struggling.

That brings me to the second big change I mentioned earlier: our $150 million-dollar Renewal School Initiative.

In announcing the program back in November, Mayor de Blasio promised that we would move “heaven and earth” to help these 94 schools – and we are.

Right now, Renewal Schools are in the middle of a dramatic transformation process. Our investments in each school will focus on four key priorities.

First, we will transform every Renewal School into a Community School. Because we know that engaging community-based organizations as partners is a great way to engage families and improve student outcomes.

Second, every Renewal School will feature expanded learning time, which is an extra hour of instruction every day. The schools will also get additional after-school program seats.

Both of these measures come down to common sense – more classroom time and targeted support helps kids learn.

Third, we will provide Renewal School teachers with more training. That means intensive coaching from experts inside and outside the school system. Our struggling schools must have an excellent teacher at the front of every classroom, period.

Fourth and finally, we will offer high-quality summer programs for students enrolled in Renewal Schools.

In the end, it all comes back to my favorite word: accountability. Our superintendents are having tough conversations with principals at these schools about what must change.

If we don’t see improvement, we will take action. It could be a school staffing overhaul – including a new principal. It could be merging two schools in order to maximize the best leadership and maximize resources to move the building in a new direction. The stakes are simply too high to stand pat.

Now we have reached the last change I’d like to discuss with you: streamlining and aligning our school support structure.

There’s a lot of institutional memory in this room. And you may remember the many conflicting configurations of the Board of Education.

Just trying to explain the contradictory structure of the BOE gives me a headache – there were Board Members, Executive Board Members, local school boards, separate systems for high schools and middle schools. It was not common sense.

In addition, that bureaucratic system was ripe for patronage and inefficiency.

And the lack of clear accountability lead to fewer than half of our students graduating in four years.

Superintendents and school boards micromanaged every principal, dictating who they hired and what books they should buy. No one, especially me, wants to go back to those days.

This brings me to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. They both deserve a lot of credit for finally bringing the school system under mayoral control and increasing accountability.

I served as Deputy Chancellor during the Bloomberg Administration. So I saw firsthand how mayoral control allowed principals and administrators to get a lot more done, with strong instructional leaders at the helm.

And thanks to them, we have the freedom to appoint superintendents directly, and hold them accountable for results. They are not beholden to elected School Boards – they answer to me, and I answer to the Mayor.

Up until now, the process of supervising schools and the process for supporting schools ran on parallel tracks. The person who supervised did not support. And the person who supported did not supervise.

Superintendents had the authority to rate and fire principals, but they didn’t have the tools they needed to help principals improve.

Instead, that responsibility fell to 55 Children First Networks, which had access to resources designed to help schools improve.

There are a number of problems with the Network system – I’ll tick them off quickly:

First, the networks are not organized geographically. That means they might include schools in multiple boroughs across the city.

This is confusing to schools and families – the network they belong to could be headquartered far away.

Second, every network had the same amount of resources, regardless of how many schools they served.

For instance, one network might serve 25 schools with 7,000 students, while another might serve 25 schools with 40,000 students.

Struggling schools got no more support than high-performing schools – it was a one-size-fits-all approach that left schools and students behind.

Finally, the leaders of these networks had the inverse of the problem facing the superintendents – despite working closely with principals, they had no authority to rate or fire them.

It all boils down to this – under the existing system, those with authority don’t have the resources they need, and those with resources don’t have the authority.

I know that many of you are excellent managers, so I’m sure you can appreciate how frustrating that must be. And not just for administrators, but also for principals – they’ve been receiving mixed messages, getting sent in different directions and never knowing exactly to whom they’re accountable to.

Today, I am announcing a new approach. It is structured around two foundational principles: One, we need a system with clear lines of authority and accountability.

And two, we need to safeguard the independence of strong school leaders – because they know their schools the best.

The central element of our new approach is creating clear accountability and giving superintendents the authority and resources they need to improve what happens in our schools and in our classrooms. Beginning in the fall of 2015, superintendents will support and supervise schools, period.

I am comfortable giving them this authority because I am confident in their ability. I personally oversaw the selection of these superintendents.

All district and high school superintendents had to reapply for their jobs.

And we changed the criteria to ensure that all new superintendents had at least 10 years of pedagogic experience, including at least three as a principal.

They must also have a proven record of student improvement and facilitating community involvement – and input – in the schools.

We now have 45 superintendents, including 15 brand-new superintendents.

All are experienced educators and supervisors who have overseen schools that have seen improvements.

They will be my eyes and ears. And again, unlike the system before Mayoral Control, the superintendents answer to me. I have already had hour-long one-on-one appointments with every superintendent.

Going forward, there will be consistency across and within the system

Let me briefly describe how the new system will work.

First, each superintendent will have a small team to help support students, families and schools.

Second, we will create seven Borough Field Support Centers, or “FSC’s” – two in Brooklyn, two in Queens, and one in each of the other boroughs.

Each of these Centers will house the full range of school support personnel, including experts on:

– Instruction
– Operations
– Student services, including health resources and counseling
– Working with English Language Learners, and
– Working with students with special needs

The personnel in those offices will report to a Field Service Center Director, who will be experienced and highly qualified.

Superintendents will work with principals to access services at their Center. But unlike the Networks, which provided the same supports to all of the schools they served, these Centers will be large enough to offer choices to principals.

For instance, if you need help providing special assistance to early elementary school English Language Learners, you will have the City’s experts on that topic at your fingertips. And if you need help providing algebra instruction, you can choose that support instead.

The new system will also foster more collaboration among elementary, middle, and high schools within close proximity. This was an obstacle in Networks that were spread across the city.

With 7 Centers instead of 55 Networks, each Center can build the scale and expertise necessary to provide customized support for schools. They will be more flexible, more efficient, and more equitable while still utilizing much of the expertise already in the system.

Finally, we will make more strategic use of the existing Partnership Support Organizations, or “PSOs,” now to be called Affinity Groups.

These non-profit organizations and university partners provide support, coaching, and guidance on school program management and planning.

I’m talking about organizations you know, like New Visions, Urban Assembly and CUNY. And they will remain our valued partners. I know many schools would not be where they are today without the critical support they provide.

Under the new structure, they will continue to provide targeted support to schools.

But they will be brought under a superintendent, and they will be held accountable for results – just like everyone else. They will also serve as models in areas of their specific strengths for schools across the City.

And school leaders will have more freedom to choose the services they would like from that group, or any other group.

And on the topic of budgets, I want to be clear about what is NOT changing: principals will retain control over their budgets and who they hire.

These are the crucial levers of management. As a former principal, I am personally committed to ensuring that successful principals retain the independence they have earned through years of hard work. And we can’t hold our school leaders accountable if we don’t give them decision-making power.

And speaking of independence, let me make another thing clear: schools that are already doing well will have a lot more of it – we don’t want to mess with success.

But let me reiterate the crucial point: Superintendents will be responsible for getting their schools the tools they need to succeed. And it is superintendents who will hold school leaders accountable for results. And I will hold superintendents accountable.

And that is the structure – simple and clear. It is common sense.

We are drawing clear lines of authority and holding everyone in the system accountable for student performance.

Schools get supervision and support from one place: the superintendent.

Families have one place to call if they cannot solve problems at the school: the superintendent.

My senior team at Tweed will know where to go when issues arise: the superintendent.

It will be easier for schools to share best practices. We will be able to make swift interventions in struggling schools, and do a better job of holding them accountable.

And all of our offices—from Central to the field—will be aligned under one vision.

Of course, the buck ultimately stops with me.

Thanks to the new structure, I will soon have a much clearer picture of what we’re doing well and where we’re lagging, and superintendents will understand what is expected of them.

Thanks to the new structure, we can be nimble and address issues as they arise, not years after thousands of students have failed.

Thanks to the new structure, it will be much easier to share resources fairly and maximize them among all of our schools and districts.

And thanks to the new structure, we will finally have the leverage we need to enact the change that has proved elusive for far too long.

The great thing about an ABNY speech is that you get to dive into the weeds.

But I know that many of you aren’t just here as policy influencers – you’re also here as parents. And as citizens and employers, you have a vested interest in the future workforce and how well they are prepared.

So as I wrap up, I’d like to reframe my remarks in terms of what parents can expect from their Department of Education in the months and years to come.

We are committed to building on the reforms of the past and making our school system more equal and more efficient. Because that’s how you build Strong Schools and Strong Communities.

We are going to do a better job of evaluating schools using measures that have been proven to help students do better.

We are going to release new school quality guides that contain not just more data, but better data. And we will present it in a way that’s easy to understand.

If your child attends a struggling school, rest assured that we are doing everything possible to improve that school. You can expect to see longer schools days, more afterschool programs, and more opportunities to get involved.

And if you don’t see that, you will know exactly who to call: your school superintendent.

We are providing your superintendent with the resources she needs to provide customized help to your school – and the authority she needs to hold your principal accountable.

It comes back to what I said at the start. Everything is predicated on a simple fact: the status quo isn’t working, and as good and decent people we have an obligation to fix it.

This new system represents a big step in our long journey toward a more perfect school system.

Our work won’t be done until every one of our children graduates high school – and graduates fully prepared to pursue the future they imagine for themselves.

The challenges before us are daunting, no question – but we have already come so far.

Thank you.

The race for state superintendent in California cost over $26 million, far more than the governor’s race. Tom Torlakson, the incumbent, was supported by the California Teachers Association. Marshall Tuck, the charter school executive, received large sums from billionaires. The key issue between them was teacher due process rights. Torlakson appealed the Vergara decision; Tuck prouded not to do do.

The Network for Phblic Education, which endorsed Torlakson, analyzed the spending behind Tuck’s campaign.

“Heavy hitters in the “education reform” movement, namely Broad, Walton and Fisher, really stepped up to the plate for Tuck by donating millions to multiple Independent Expenditure Committees, (AKA Super PACs) as well as smaller direct contributions to Tuck’s campaign. The biggest Super PAC contributing to Tuck was the deceptively named “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent, 2014.” The Super PAC’s funding came from no less than a baker’s dozen of privatization focused billionaires, and assorted elites from the financial and technology sectors, with a net contribution of almost 10 million dollars.

“Parents and Teachers for Tuck also received contributions from a host of other Super PACs with names like Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First, Education Matters, EDVOICE, and Great Public Schools for Los Angeles. A closer look at these Super PACs tells us that they too are funded by essentially the same cast of characters behind Parents and Teachers for Tuck, with additional millions from the Broad, Fisher and Walton families lining the coffers of each of the Super PACs.

“But you’d be hard pressed to find a public school parent or teacher who contributed to any of the Super PACs for Tuck.”

This story in the New York Times tells a lot about what happened in New York City during the Bloomberg years (Mayor Bloomberg was elected in 2001, won full control of the school system from the Legislature in 2002, and put his plans into effect in September 2003). Although the city had a term-limits law of two terms, Bloomberg persuaded the NYC City Council to allow him (and themselves) to stay in office for a third term. So, Bloomberg ran the public schools from 2002-2013, when he left office. The signal strategy of his years in office was closing low-performing schools–many of them large comprehensive high schools–and replacing them with small high schools or charter schools, sometimes with three, four, or five schools in the same building, each with its own principal and administrative staff. The small high schools were allowed to exclude students with disabilities and English-language-learners for a set number of years, and of course, they had better results than the big high schools. The big high schools meanwhile became dumping grounds for the students unwanted by the new small schools or the charters.


The linked article notes that the Bloomberg administration closed 157 schools–most of them large high schools–and opened 656 schools, including charter schools.


The irony of the article is that it features Santiago Taveras, who was the man charged with closing schools. In public hearings, he appeared stonily impassive as students, parents, and teachers pleaded for the life of their school. Taveras is now in charge of DeWitt Clinton, one of the few remaining comprehensive high schools, and he is leading the effort to turnaround the school. His is one of 94 schools selected by the de Blasio administration for extra resources and services, because de Blasio wants to help schools instead of closing them. Taveras led the effort to close schools, now he is part of De Blasio’s effort to rescue them. Flexibility is a good thing.


I personally believe that de Blasio is on the right track in trying to give schools the help they need to survive. As the article points out, many of the comprehensive high schools were doomed because they took in the low-performing students that the new high schools excluded. Some of those that were closed–like storied Jamaica High School–had extensive programs for college-bound students, for English-language learners, and for many other students with different interests and needs. But Jamaica High School died, despite the loyalty and efforts of its staff.



One of the major initiatives of Mayor Bloomberg’s Department of Education was the development of a new IBM computer system called ARIS (Achievement Reporting and Innovation System).

According to a story by Ben Chapman in the Néw York Daily News, the city DOE is killing the system because so few parents and teachers use it.

The $12 million contract to maintain the system was held by former Chancellor Joel Klein’s Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

When Klein was chancellor, he awarded a contract to fix ARIS to a company called Wireless Generation. Soon after Klein stepped down as chancellor, Murdoch bought Wireless Generation for $360 million.


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