Archives for category: Bloomberg, Michael

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.

Steve Zimmer is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. He began his career in education with Teach for America, then stayed as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for 17 years. When he ran for re-election, corporate reformers amassed a huge campaign chest to defeat him. He was outspent 4-1, but he won.

Zimmer is known as a thoughtful board member who cares about children, class size, and the quality of education for all children.

He posted the following on his Facebook page:


It is less than 24 hours until Election Day.

I never imagined the right wing billionaires that tried to take me out of my school board seat in 2013 could donate more and distort the truth greater than they did against me. But that time has come. In tomorrow’s election for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the billionaires have outdone themselves, pouring over 11 million dollars into Charter School Operator Marshall Tuck’s campaign to unseat former teacher Tom Torlakson. This incredible cast of characters represents a who’s who of the corporate school privatization movement. Just take a look at who is on Marshall Tuck’s 500,000+ donor list. Each and every one of these donors has supported Republican campaigns, efforts to deregulate almost every major industry, gut workers rights and fight every sensible Obama initiative. And now several of the​m​ are among the largest donors to the Republican effort to take the U.S. Senate. Here are just a few:

Julian Robertson 1,000,000
Eli Broad $1,000,000
Michael Bloomberg $1,000,000
Bill Bloomfield $1,000,000
AliceWalton $1,000,000
Carrie Penner Walton $500,000
John Douglas Arnold $500,000

The billionaires have distorted Tom Torlakson’s moderate, successful record during his first term. They ignore the substantial improvements in all measurable areas throughout the state that have culminated in our first ever 80% statewide graduation rate. Because they mostly opposed Proposition 30, they want us forget that Tom Torlakson led they way towards rescuing our and fighting for all forms of local control. And in Marshall Tuck they have found the perfect private sector candidate. I’ve worked directly with Marshall. He is not a bad person and he is not trying to ruin our schools. But he fundamentally believes schools should be run as a business. He slashed classified jobs and promoted cut throat competition between schools as a charter school leader. As a candidate he has raised the ugly flag of demonizing teachers and has promised to drop t​he appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. He has also promised to force all California districts to have teacher evaluation systems directly linked to student’s standardized test scores.

We can’t let this happen. Tomorrow we have to show that public education in California is not for sale. Tomorrow we have to show that we can transform outcomes for students by working together not blaming those who have dedicated their lives to our schools. We can’t let these modern day​ robber​ barons steal this crucial election.

I ask you to do everything you can in the next 24 hours to turn out every progressive, every democrat, every person who care​s​ about our schools and every person who cares about democracy to vote for Tom Torlakson. The ultra rich controlling our democracy is not a new story. But the consequences if they are successful tomorrow will be unprecedented. I still believe we are more powerful than money. Let us all​,​ in California and throughout our nation, show the power of the people. Thank you for doing all you can.


Sarah Lahm, writing in “In These Times,” follows the money being spent in the Minneapolis school board race. She says that outside Minneapolis funders have spent $290,000 on the school board race. How can grassroots parent and community leaders compete for office when billionaires decide to lavish hundreds of thousands of dollars to control the local school board? It can be done. We have seen candidates in past few years–like Amy Frogge in Nashville, Monica Ratliff in Los Angeles, and Glenda Ritz in Indiana–win their election despite being vastly outspent. What is key is reaching voters and letting them know that they must not allow big money to buy control of their public schools. Let them know what is at stake. What matters is grassroots organizing. It can counter big money successfully. The joke in Minneapolis is that the flyers from the billionaire-backed group accuse incumbent Rebecca Gagnon of being the candidate of “Big Money,” when she has raised only $12,000!


Lahm writes:


New campaign finance reports filed in Minnesota show that the 2014 Minneapolis school board election is being buoyed by a tremendous amount of outside money, including a $100,000 contribution from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.


Bloomberg’s money went to a group that calls itself the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund. This fund also benefited from a $90,000 influx of cash from California billionaire and venture capitalist Arthur Rock, and another $25,000 from Connecticut businessman Jonathan Sackler, a trustee of the Achievement First charter school chain.


A campaign finance report filed by the Fund this week shows that between July 30 and October 21, it raised $228,300 and spent $146,860 on such things as phone banking, strategy and campaign literature, including $8,500 for social media and website resources. In total, the group has spent more than $286,000 on the race this year.


There are four contenders for the two open at-large seats on the school board. So far, all of the Fund’s resources have been used to promote two candidates: Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano. In addition to a website that advises people to vote for Samuels and Altamirano on November 4, the Fund also sent out two glossy campaign mailers that advocate for Samuels and Altamirano and criticize incumbent candidate Rebecca Gagnon.


One of the Fund’s recent mailers says that Gagnon is “Good For Big Donors” and therefore “Bad For Our School Board.” Gagnon’s personal campaign finance reports show that she has raised a little more than $12,000, putting her well behind fundraising frontrunners Samuels and Altamirano, who have raised more than $65,000 and $41,000, respectively. The fourth at-large candidate, Ira Jourdain, has raised just over $3,000.


The Fund is chaired by Minneapolis resident Daniel Sellers, who also serves as executive director of both the local education reform advocacy group MinnCAN and the Minnesota chapter of its 501c4 advocacy arm, 50CAN Action Fund, which is also campaigning for Samuels. While some might question why out-of-state billionaires like Bloomberg and Rock would throw their money into the Minneapolis school board race, Sellers tells In These Times that he considers their investments nothing more than an indication of their support for the city and for the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund’s desire to raise awareness about the election.


What Bloomberg, Rock, and Sackler have in common is their love for privately managed charter schools and Teach for America.


The candidates supported by the billionaire-backed fund said they had nothing to do with the fund.







The Network for Public Education has issued a BIG MONEY ALERT about efforts to swamp state and local school board races with outsize campaign contributions.

The ALERT focuses on a handful of races where corporate reformers are using their vast financial resources to win control. Many of the biggest donors are out-of-state and have no ties to the public schools other than a desire to promote charter schools, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers.

The race for state school superintendent in California has attracted the most corporate reform money. Marshall Tuck is the favorite of the billionaires and hedge fund managers. State superintendent Tom Torlakson is an educator with solid support among the state’s teachers and administrators. Torlakson is supported by teachers and their unions.

Tuck is the darling of the corporate ed-reform donors, having received such contributions as:

Eli Broad’s donation of $1,375,000;
Walton daughters and heirs, Alice and Carrie with $450,000 and $500,000 respectively;
Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation with $1,000,000;
Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund with $950,000;
Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000;
Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold;
San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

If you know of other races where the big corporate money people are tilting the scales, please contact Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network for Public Education, or leave a comment here.

Let me say at the outset that I am neither for nor against small schools. Sometimes they work well, because they have small classes and extra attention, sometimes they don’t, especially when they don’t provide classes for English language learners or advanced courses or foreign languages. As always, it depends.

Recently a report by a research organization called MRDC asserted that New York City’s Gates-funded small high schools were surprisingly successful.

But an underground researcher in the NYC Department of a education says, wait a minute. Review the evidence.

He/she writes:


How to Reform a Portfolio District


In what has become an annual propaganda exercise, MDRC (yes, their corporate name is just the initials), a “research foundation” in New York City, has self-published a non-peer reviewed paper on their website claiming that the new small high schools created under the Bloomberg administration are a success.[1] The New York Times followed up with an editorial claiming that “the Bloomberg approach has been vindicated” and that de Blasio should continue the same educational policies.[2]


Is there any truth to these claims? Does the data support any of this? The answer is “no.” The papers self-published by the MDRC are shoddily researched with clear biases and poor grounding in reality. It order to keep the size of this essay to a manageable length let’s limit ourselves to a Top 10 list of the paper’s flaws.


  1. The Gates Foundation provides the funding for these papers. The Gates Foundation also funded many of the new small high schools in New York City. What we have here is a circular process of self-congratulation. The peer-review process might be expected to uncover the biases produced by this unholy alliance.[3] But these papers have, of course, never been peer reviewed. They are self-published by MDRC on their website and then touted in press releases and newspaper editorials.
  2. It is becoming standard practice for researchers to publicly post data-sets used in such studies. MDRC has refused to release the data-set. This makes it impossible for their results to be independently verified or questioned.
  3. The papers claim that the new high schools “are open to any student who wants to attend.” This claim invents its own reality and ignores the existing literature that has shown how schools manage their admissions and enrollment processes so as to selectively screen out more challenging students. [4] It also ignores the facts on how the lottery process for these new high schools actually worked. In reality the new high schools used such tools as required attendance at information sessions, applications with essays, student biographical data, and listing mandated uniforms in the high school directory to screen out more challenging students prior to the lottery process as well as post the lottery process prior to enrollment. [5] A review of earlier papers in the MDRC series concluded that “carrying out the lotteries using the method described in the report may have resulted in nonrandom differences between the study groups.” [6] MDRC has never addressed these issues and continues to self-publish these papers on their website. It seems MDRC is more interested in continued funding than actually figuring out what really works for all students.
  4. The new small high schools have been found to engage in questionable academic practices and the manipulation of data at a higher rate than other high schools. For example, the new small high schools represent about 25% of all New York City high schools, yet in one year they made up 60% of the schools with patterns of data so suspicious that the Department of Education did not give them a grade. This should raise some serious concerns that MDRC does not address.
  5. For mysterious reasons MDRC excluded 33 small new secondary schools, a potential 30% increase in the number of schools examined in their self-published papers, even though 9th graders also apply to these schools through the high school admissions process. This may lead to significant bias in the results, especially since 6-12 schools are included in the comparison group.
  6. The new small high schools were closed at the same rate as existing schools, raising serious doubts about claims that the new small high schools as a whole were an improvement over existing schools.[7] This reality, of course, also biases the outcomes of the MDRC papers. Since the closed and closing new small high schools cease to accept 9th graders, their lower student outcomes would have a smaller impact on outcomes in these reports. The closed and closing new small high schools include, Manhattan Theatre Lab, Gateway School For Environmental Research and Technology, International Arts Business School, Global Enterprise High School, High School of Performance and Stagecraft (renamed Performance Conservatory), Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship for Young Men, and the School for Community Research and Learning. Interestingly enough about 7% of the schools in the MDRC sample have closed, which is very close to the effect sizes MDRC claims the new small high school have produced.
  7. The MDRC papers only examine what they term “oversubscribed” new high schools. Only about 85% of the new small high schools meet this criteria. Meaning that 15% of new small high schools did not have enough applicants to fill their seats. Remember this is in context of students listing up to 12 high schools on their application. This means that the comparison groups are not equivalent. The outcomes of the presumably much weaker new small high schools are excluded. In order to make the comparison equivalent, the 15% of comparison schools with the weakest outcomes that the matched students attended should have been excluded as well. MDRC did not, of course, make this correction.
  8. Even with their biased methodology the MDRC papers have shown that the new small high schools have no significant impact on mathematics outcomes for students. Given the greater constraints in scoring on math exams, this difference suggests that any positive effects in the new small high schools are due to more relaxed grading policies rather than true increases in educational attainment. There is a lot more evidence suggesting the same thing, none of which MDRC addresses. For example, examination of credit accumulation in New York City schools has shown that while new high schools grant more credits, the credits do not correspond to a rigorous college ready curriculum.[8]
  9. When analyzing outcomes of specific student populations the MDRC papers lump students into very broad categories such as English Language Learner and Special Education Status. Given the data showing, for example, that the new small high school serve fewer of the neediest special education students, such comparisons are clearly biased in favor of the new small high schools.[9]
  10. MDRC does not acknowledge the special “favors” that were granted to Bloomberg’s new small schools. This includes receiving a higher percent of their Fair Student Funding formula than other schools [10], having more available facility space than other schools [11], and excluding special needs students [12] and English Language Learners in their early years [13]. Any comparisons made in such an inequitable policy environment are ridiculous.


The current popularity of the portfolio district approach can be attributed to the following factors:


  1. a) Superintendents of urban districts and other district officials with no background in education- with zero expertise in education they have no clue how to improve teaching and learning.
  2. b) A reluctance on the part of districts to take ownership and responsibility for the success of their schools- this leads to the strange but increasingly familiar scenario of districts trashing the public schools they are actually supposed to be supporting and improving while praising and granting special favors to charter schools (see Newark, New Jersey and Camden, New Jersey).
  3. c) The short time-frame of most superintendents and other district officials in each posting. With no long-term accountability they can play the portfolio game for a couple of years- closing schools, opening schools, closing even more schools- giving off the impression of activity and hard work. Though no real progress is made, by the time this becomes obvious, they have transitioned into other positions at reform think tanks and foundations. [14]


Mayor de Blaiso and Chancellor Farina, please do not continue the education policies of the previous administration as the New York Times demands. Thankfully, you have already made very clear that you do not intend to, as the data show that the portfolio district approach employed by the previous administration was a failure.[15]


Here is what you should do instead:


+ Develop rich, engaging curricula that support student learning and train teachers in implementing these curricula with fidelity while having the flexibility to customize the curricula to the needs of their students.


+Return to a geographic approach of school support and governance based on feeder patterns between elementary, middle and high schools. This will allow for articulation and alignment of supports as students progress from one grade band to the next.


+ Improve the metrics currently used to evaluate teachers and schools. The current metrics penalize schools that serve more challenging students and are open to manipulation. The initial revisions to the school Progress Reports are a good first step in what needs to be an iterative and ongoing process.


+ Focus on equity and fairness at every level of the organization. Enrollment practices must be reformed so that all students are educated by every single school. Tracking practices must be reformed so that every student receives a challenging academic program. Funding practices must be reformed so that schools are funded at levels appropriate to the students they serve.


This is how New York City will progress and truly serve every single student.







[3] Peer review is, of course, not the perfect solution for identifying bias in research. For example, the famous Chetty et al. study that was used to support value-added measures to evaluate teachers and played a role in the California tenure lawsuits now appears to have significantly exaggerated its claims. See Jesse Rothstein’s working paper at where he notes:

“Like all quasi-experiments, this one relies on an assumption that the treatment – here, teacher switching – is as good as random. I find that it is not: Teacher switching is correlated with changes in students’ prior-year scores. Exiting teachers tend to be replaced by teachers with higher measured VA when students’ prior achievement is increasing for other reasons, and by teachers with lower measured VA when student preparedness is declining. CFR have confirmed (in personal communication) that this result holds in their sample as well.

The evidence that the teacher switching “treatment” is not randomly assigned implies that CFR-I’s quasi-experimental analyses, which do not control for changes in student preparedness, cannot be interpreted causally…

It is not clear that the association between VA and long-run outcomes can be interpreted causally. The evidence of bias in VA scores means that the association between a teacher’s VA and students’ long-run outcomes may reflect the student sorting component of the VA score rather than the teacher’s true effect. Moreover, even if this issue is set aside there is still a concern that students assigned to high-VA teachers may be advantaged in ways that are predictive of the students’ long-run outcomes, implying that the estimated “effect” of being assigned to a teacher with high estimated VA is upward biased. In both CFR’s district and the North Carolina sample, teachers’ measured VA is correlated with students’ prior scores and other observables. Neither CFR-II’s observational estimates nor their quasi-experimental estimates of teachers’ long-run effects control fully for students’ observed, predetermined characteristics.”

[4] See Jennings, Jennifer L. (2010) School Choice or Schools’ Choice? Managing in an Era of Accountability. Sociology of Education 83: 227-247 “Although district policy did not allow principals to select students based on their performance, two of the three schools in this study circumvented these rules to recruit and retain a population that would meet local accountability targets.”




[8] and

[9] See and for other significant demographic differences between older schools and the new small high schools.





[14] See, for example, the cases of Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who now works for the Murdochs and of Marc Sternberg, former deputy chancellor of the now shuttered Division of Portfolio Planning at the New York City Department of Education, who now works for the Waltons.


Feeling down about corporate ownership of almost everything? So is David Greene. Gates, Walton, Bloomberg, Bezos, Murdoch, Koch. What don’t they own? Our votes.

David thinks back a century. Other oligarchs owned almost everything then. Of course, it didn’t occur to them to monetize the schools.

But we beat them back. We elected people to regulate the oligarchs. We can do it again.


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