Archives for category: New York City

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.

There is no public pension crisis in New York City or New York State, writes 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, on the blog Perdido Street School. Anyone who is trying to conjure a “pension crisis” is willfully ignoring facts, writes Lirtzman.


He says:


New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and Rhode Island are the states with the most significant actual pension problems, verging on “crises,” caused almost entirely by years and years of the state failing to make mandated minimum employer contributions to keep their pension systems solvent. New York State and New York City are awash in cash as tax revenues from soaring sales of residential and commercial properties roll in and personal income and sales tax proceeds exceed every recent projection and are making current contributions to their pension plans.

In 2013, the New York City Teachers Retirement System (TRS) was funded at approximately 63% of accumulated retirement benefit obligations and earned 11.9% on its $38.3 billion investment assets. In 2013, The New York State Teachers Retirement System was funded at approximately 88% of accumulated pension obligations and earned 13.7% on its $82.7 billion investments assets. There is no pension “crisis” in New York City or New York State that would warrant, even by the Post’s own credulous standards, the sort of panic that such an article will engender.

No politician in New York City or New York State will take on public pension fund systems directly by attempting to reduce the benefits paid to current retirees or accruing to current employees. They cannot do that because pension benefits are a constitutional obligation of the State of New York and a contractual obligation of the City and State as employers.

The only time that a state constitutional protection has been abrogated other than by some change in the constitution itself occurred two years ago in Detroit, when a federal bankruptcy judge, relying on long-standing precedent, ruled that the Michigan State constitutional protection against the diminishment of already accumulated pension benefits does not apply when a municipality of the State, in this case, Detroit, declares bankruptcy.


Neither New York City nor New York State is approaching bankruptcy, and there is no pension crisis in the city or state. Period.



Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters, maintains a terrific, informative blog for Néw York City and state issues called Here she comments on the release of NYC teacher ratings based on state test scores. The bottom line in some of the reports shown below is that low test scores are caused by bad teachers, who are obviously ineffective. If every school had only “great” teachers, every student would have high scores. If only.

Leonie writes:

“8.2% of NYC teachers rated ineffective or developing, compared to 2.4% in the rest of state; meanwhile only 9.2% rated highly effective in NYC compared to 58.2% statewide.

“Tisch [chair of state Board of Regents] etc. say rest of state figures should be more like NYC, and call for re-design of system.

“Meanwhile Daily News editors — as dumb as ever — say NYC’s results don’t find enough ineffective teachers, considering “The results are absurd when roughly a third of city students pass state English and math tests.”

“They want the state to take away power of districts to design their own systems, fire teachers who are rated ineffective for 2 years in a row, and take more power away from principals to rate teachers highly whose students don’t score well on tests.

The New York Daily News editorial recommends:

One: Empower state, not local, officials to set the grades that will label teachers ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective.

Two: Get local districts out of the business of rating teachers using measures that are designed to boost subpar performers.

Three: Put teachers who are rated ineffective for two consecutive years in fire-at-will probationary status, rather than giving them access to hopelessly bureaucratic hearings.

Four: Ensure that a teacher whose students bomb tests cannot vault into a top rating because, for example, a principal gives a high mark for lesson planning.

Speaking of tests, improving education in New York will be one of the biggest Cuomo faces.

[My note:] What the Daily News wants is to eliminate due process (“hopelessly bureaucratic hearings”) so that teachers can be swiftly fired if scores don’t go up.

More reporting on the evaluations:

New York Post,
New York Times,
New York Daily News,
Capital New York (Pro),
Wall Street Journal,

Summary here:

by Jessica Bakeman, Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding

EVALS AS EVIDENCE—Education leaders use NYC scores as grist for statewide changes—Capital’s Jessica Bakeman and Eliza Shapiro: New York City’s evaluation of its teachers’ performance, which resulted in only 9 percent earning the highest scores under the state-mandated rating system, is more reliable than other districts’ and underscores the need for changes to ensure results aren’t artificially high, education leaders argued on Tuesday. In the rest of the state, 58 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective,” according to preliminary data released on Tuesday. That statistic is considered suspect, especially given students’ low scores on state exams, according to Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, outgoing education commissioner John King and education groups that have supported strict accountability measures for teachers and schools.

“There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated,” Tisch said in a statement. “The ratings from districts aren’t differentiating performance. We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, NYSUT, and other education stakeholders to strengthen the evaluation law in the coming legislative session.”

The education department report includes recommendations for how to improve the system. For example, if more than 75 percent of teachers or principals are rated “highly effective” or fewer than 5 percent are rated “ineffective” on the component of the evaluation system that is based on observations, the lead evaluators in that district should be retrained and an independent audit might be appropriate, the department recommended. [PRO]

—Despite the overall high scores, New York State United Teachers is calling into question the validity of the results. “On the whole, they may be spot on,” NYSUT president Karen Magee told Gannett’s Jon Campbell. “But for individual teachers, they can be spectacularly wrong—and that undermines confidence in the whole system.”

—At least 100 educators in Buffalo were erroneously rated “effective” or “highly effective” when their scores should have been lower, prompting a state probe. Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan:



Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent editorial about the disastrous decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads for every student and staff member of the LA schools. It should be a cautionary tale for every school district that is about to invest hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in new technology.


The District’s Inspector General investigated the purchase and found nothing wrong. But he never looked at the emails that passed between district officials and the winning vendors (Apple and Pearson). The school board never released the results of that investigation. Now a federal grand jury has been impaneled to look at the evidence of possible wrong-doing, and that is a very good thing. The grand jury will also examined the botched computer system that cost millions of dollars and never performed as it was supposed to.


She writes:


When the school board reached a severance agreement with Deasy in October, it issued a statement that board members do “not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts” in regard to the emails. That statement was completely inappropriate considering that Bramlett’s investigation into the emails was still underway—as it is now. The board has no authority to direct the inspector general’s investigations—but it can hire and fire the person heading the staff office, and controls his office’s budget. (In fact, just a week or so before the board made its statement, Bramlett’s office pleaded for more funding, according to a KPCC report.) The statement could be seen as pressuring the inspector general not to find wrongdoing; in any case, board members are in no position to prejudge the matter.


For that matter, none of us are in that position. The emails could be perfectly legal and appropriate—or not. It’s unknown whether even a federal grand jury will be able to ferret out the full picture, since many earlier emails were apparently deleted and aren’t available. And if it uncovers ethical rather than legal problems, the public might never know; the grand jury is looking for evidence of crime. Federal crime at that. This might not be the best mechanism for examining the iPad purchase. But the investigation at least ensures that an independent authority is examining the matter, unimpeded by internal politics or pressures.


Yes, the public has a right to know and a right to expect that public officials will act in the best interests of students. As for the huge purchases for technology, we in New York have learned that even the sharpest and most ethical city officials have trouble monitoring the technology purchases. The largest financial scandal in the city’s history occurred recently, when a company called Citytime won an IT contract for $63 million in 1998 which ballooned into a $600 million payout; the principals went to jail. The school system’s ARIS project, launched in 2007, was supposed to aggregate data on the city’s 1.1 million students; it was recently dumped because so few teachers or parents used it, at a loss of $95 million. There were other instances where consultants bilked the city, in large part because no one supervised what they were doing.


Is there a moral to the story? Choose your own. Mine is that these multimillion dollar technology purchases must be carefully monitored, from beginning to end, to be sure that the public interest is protected and served. The problem is that many school districts lack the expertise to know whether they are getting what they paid for, or getting a pig in a poke. When even New York City and Los Angeles can be misled, think how much easier it will be to pick the pockets of mid-size and smaller districts.

Former Mayor Rudy Guiliani has a unique theory about why Eric Garner died. It was not because a police officer choked him until he died. No, it was because the teachers’ union blocked charters, vouchers, and merit pay. I am not sure whether he wanted Mr. Garner to go to a charter school or the police officer. Maybe both. If there is an edge, he went over it.

His remarks reminded me of the incident during his term in office when police brutalized a man named Abner Louima, and one of them allegedly said, “It’s Guiliani-time.”

In contrast to the Bloomberg administration, which believed in closing schools with low test scores, the de Blasio administration is launching a “community schools” model, in which schools are paired with community organizations to help them improve. Here is a press release from the New York City Department of Education, a welcome departure from the past, when almost every school lived under threat of closure:



Each school to adopt transformative educational approach to address whole needs of children and provide targeted services such as vision care, mentoring, arts and sports education, social workers and other mental health services, youth leadership programming, and academic enrichment to help students catch-up or leap ahead

NEW YORK—Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery today announced the first 45 Community Schools launched under the de Blasio administration have been matched with 25 local community-based organizations and approved to provide a slate of new services to help students develop and learn.

Under the $52 million four-year Attendance Improvement and Dropout Intervention (AIDP) grant administered in partnership with the United Way of New York, New York City will launch more community schools than any other city in the nation. Community Schools are a pillar of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s education agenda, supporting social, emotional, physical and academic needs of students to support learning. The AIDP-funded community schools will include a specific focus on chronic absenteeism and drop-out prevention.

The research-based Community School model has a proven track record of improving academic achievement. It creates strong partnerships between schools and experienced community partners to provide social services, counseling and mental health supports, targeted academic interventions, and engage entire families and communities as part of a holistic approach towards elevating educational outcomes.

Each of the 45 community schools has been matched to an effective community-based organization and a full-time in-school Community School Coordinator. The Community School Coordinator’s role is to customize and organize the delivery of supports to students such as mentors, mental health professionals, academically enrichment services during and after the school day, optometrists and dental services, as needed.

“We believe in investing in the whole child. Every student comes to class with different challenges that can make it difficult to learn. Community Schools respond to families’ needs in innovative ways so that students become more likely to attend class, and better able to focus and succeed. We know that when this model is done right, it has a proven track record of strong academic results,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“For our students to succeed they must be in school learning, and within the community school model, the whole needs of students are addressed,” said Chancellor Fariña. “Not only can there be an eye clinic or additional guidance counselors to address the social and emotional needs of our students, but parent involvement and engagement happens every single day. When I visit schools and see parents volunteering in the classroom, sitting in a communal room having coffee and discussing how to support their kids, I know these schools will become anchors within their communities and our students are the winners.”

“Combined with Pre-K for All and after-school enrichment in our middle schools, these Community Schools are going to lift up thousands of students. These schools serve some of our most challenged communities, and that puts even more pressure on our teachers and principals to help kids succeed and build a better life. Having seen strong Community Schools in action right here in New York City, I know what a difference they can make. We cannot wait to roll up our sleeves and get started,” said Deputy Mayor Buery.

“United Way of New York City is proud to partner with the de Blasio administration on this visionary effort,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO, United Way of New York City. “We firmly believe this Community Schools initiative will be integral in transforming the lives of New York City’s children, and UWNYC is fully leveraging our unique strength and over 23-year experience working with CBOs to help successfully launch the City’s strategy.”
Dozens of studies from the past two decades have demonstrated the positive impact of Community Schools on academic achievement. An analysis of 11 of Boston’s K-5 City Connects schools found students had significantly outperformed peers in comparable schools in academic work across grades 3-5. Students in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s most successful Community Schools significantly outperformed their peers in math by 32 points and in reading by 19 points, with poor students in those Community Schools erasing the achievement gap with students from more affluent families.

Across New York City, Community School development is in full swing. Community School Coordinators are being hired this month to oversee school-by-school planning. Parent, staff and community forums to solicit input will begin early in the new year, with each school’s service plan developed in March and most services beginning subsequently. Some services such as mentoring for chronically absent students and on-campus counseling may begin by January 2015.

Among the programs announced today is Manhattan’s High School for Media and Communications, which will partner with Catholic Charities to provide prep courses for the SAT and Regents exams, as well as after-school programming in theater and the arts. Rockaway Collegiate High School will partner with Family Health International to provide adult mentoring for students, staff professional development and mental health services on campus.

“This program has the potential to fundamentally transform our schools and will make a difference in the lives of so many children and families,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Research clearly demonstrates that children who receive comprehensive services perform better academically, that’s is why I and my colleagues in the Assembly Majority have long supported AIDP initiatives and were proud to support Community Schools in recent State Budgets. Supporting the comprehensive social, emotional, physical and academic needs of students will pay huge dividends in the future and helps ensure our children receive the best education possible.”

“The beauty of a Community School is that it is built on the idea that we are stronger together,” said Karen Alford, Vice President for Elementary Schools, United Federation of Teachers. “Schools are stronger when they are paired with community partners. These organizations can bring targeted resources to answer the specifics needs of students and families at a particular school – a cookie-cutter approach won’t do. From our own experience, we know that strong community partners can make a real difference in the lives of students and in the climate of a school.”

“We welcome the opportunity to work in even deeper partnership with the Department of Education to make sure that all the elements needed for high-quality Community Schools are in place and strong,” said Phoebe C. Boyer, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. “With City Hall’s full support, we can bring this proven strategy to more schools and ensure that even more New York City children have access to the supports they need to thrive in school.”
“We look forward to the opportunity to work with Principal Santi Taveras and the Dewitt Clinton community to provide counseling and enrichment services for all of the smaller learning communities that have been created at the school,” said Jim Marley, Assistant Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services. “We are also looking at partnerships to provide additional support to help students graduate ready for college or a meaningful career through Regents preparation and youth leadership training. Good Shepherd will lend its total support to help this school succeed and work in lockstep with the principal, staff and students to encourage families to take advantage of the new opportunities the school offers.”
“Phipps Neighborhoods is proud to be part of the Community Schools initiative,” said Dianne Morales, Executive Director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods. “Community Schools combine the unique strengths of schools and community-based organizations in partnership to create opportunities for students, families and communities to succeed and rise above poverty.”
“P.S. 15 is excited to partner with Pathways 2 Leadership, an organization that has demonstrated a commitment toward serving our youth through high-quality programming,” said Irene Sanchez, principal of P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente. “They bring with them an extensive
network of partners that will be invaluable to P.S. 15. They understand what it means to be a Community School. P2L has already brought on a full-time social worker and plans to offer a superior wrap around after-school program with P.S. 15 beginning in January. Our collaborative practices coupled with their expertise will support the creation of an exceptional community school.”

“CEJ is pleased that this administration recognizes the critical role of community-based organizations in supporting school success and combatting challenges like absenteeism that NYC schools have faced for a very long time. The deep local roots and expertise in community engagement and leadership development that neighborhood organizations like Make the Road NY bring to the Bushwick Campus high schools will be invaluable in creating Community Schools that build on neighborhood strengths and address challenges. These types of true community partnerships are the backbone of the Community Schools model,” said Zoraida Conde, a parent leader from Make the Road NY and the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

In addition to these first 45 schools, the City will launch another 83 Community Schools as part of its Renewal Schools plan to address historically low performing schools. Eleven of the newly designated AIDP Community Schools are also Renewal Schools.

The Department of Education is in the process of contracting with a third party evaluator for the AIDP Community Schools initiative and the administration is committed to studying the efficacy of the model over time.

For a full list of new Community Schools and to learn more, visit

Gary Rubinstein posted a review of Joel Klein’s book by someone who worked in Klein’s Department of Education central offices for many years.


I have not read Joel Klein’s book. I have had calls from two reporters asking if what he said about me was true. I asked, what did he say? They said: He claimed that I had turned against “education reform” (e.g., charters, merit pay, school closings, and high-stakes testing) because he refused to give a job to my partner or promote her or fund her program. I answered that I never asked Joel Klein to give a job to my partner; I never asked him to promote her or to fund her program.


When Klein arrived in 2002, she was executive director in charge of principal training at the New York City Board of Education. Just about the time Klein started as Chancellor, her program won a competitive federal grant of $3 million as one of the best principal training programs in the nation. My partner had been a teacher for many years, the chairman of social studies at Edward R. Murrow High School, one of the best in the city, and the founder and principal of a small public high school in Manhattan, affiliated with Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools and Deborah Meier’s network of small schools.. Chancellor Harold Levy asked her to create a program to help hundreds of new principals. Her program was built around the concepts of collaboration, mutual respect, and mentorship; she recruited some of the city’s best, most experienced principals to exchange regular visits with new principals, and she started a summer institute where the mentor principals taught the new principals whatever they wanted and needed to know. The members of her corps of principal-leaders were called the Distinguished Faculty, and principals were honored to be invited to join the Distinguished Faculty.


When Klein arrived, he had a deputy tell Mary he was disbanding her program, appropriating the $3 million federal grant her program had just won, and turning it over to his new Leadership Academy. He selected a businessman from Colorado with no experience in education to direct the Leadership Academy. My partner stayed on at the Leadership Academy for a year; she retired in 2003. It seemed that Klein wanted very few experienced educators in decision-making roles. He preferred young MBAs, businessmen, and management consultants to guide him. He did not respect teachers, principals, or others who had made a career in the school system.


Was his treatment of Mary responsible for my change of mind about “education reform”? He flatters himself. I remained on the boards of two conservative think tanks until 2009 (the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution). But at the same time, what I observed in New York City affected my views: the heavy emphasis on testing as the measure of all things; the favoritism showed to charter operators; the explosion of no-bid contracts; the contempt expressed towards parents who wanted to save their schools or wanted class size reduction; the gaming of the system by opening small high schools that were allowed to exclude students with disabilities and English language learners, then boasting about their success; the closing of large high schools that Klein turned into dumping grounds for the students excluded from the small schools; the school report cards based mainly on test scores; the endless reorganizations of the entire system; the exodus of highly-respected principals.


Yes, Joel Klein did influence my views, but not because of what he did or did not do to my partner. That is his pettiness and vaingloriousness speaking. He made me realize over a period of years that the business model was wrong for education; that experienced educators had more wisdom than his cadre of management consultants, Sir Michael Barber, McKinsey, and 20-something graduates of business schools; that data-driven decision-making can drive the heart and spirit out of education; and that testing is not a tool for equity but a guarantor of inequity when used to rate schools and students and teachers.


I had very little contact with Klein while he was chancellor for eight years. I think we met twice. Our meetings were cordial. I never wrote anything personal or petty about him. He did not reciprocate. I don’t recall the precise year, but about 2005, an emissary from the DOE came to my home to warn me that if I did not stop writing critical articles, I would be “outed.” In 2007, I noticed on several occasions a young man from the DOE press office sitting in the audience and taping my lectures. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was gathering material for a dossier called “Diane Ravitch, Then and Now,” which showed that my views had changed on issues like merit pay. According to a story by Elizabeth Green in the Néw York Sun, the DOE was unable to find a newspaper interested in writing about this revelation. Eventually, a piece appeared in the Néw York Post under the byline of the head of the Néw York City Business Partnership (our version of the Chamber of Commerce), accusing me of being an untrustworthy hypocrite. I promptly responded that I had indeed changed my views after seeing how poorly they worked in reality. By the fall of 2007, I no longer believed that NCLB would achieve its goals; that fall, I wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times called “Get Congress Out of the Classroom.”A month later, I attended a scholarly conference about NCLB in D.C. at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It was my assignment to summarize a dozen reports from across the nation, all of which said that neither choice nor testing was making a difference. It was already evident to me that NCLB was a failure, and their reports confirmed my awakening. From conversations within those conservative think tanks, I knew that charters were no panacea, and many were failing schools. My change of mind was gradual, not sudden; it was evidence-based, not a fit of pique. Klein’s dictatorial and insensitive style had something to do with it, but not for the reasons he cites.

Katie Lapham teaches ESL classes in Brooklyn. What is really rotten in the schools, she writes, are the terrible tests that her first-graders must take. Their purpose is solely to evaluate the teachers. The tests were largely developmentally inappropriate. No teacher, she writes, would create such absurd tests.

She writes:

“Last month, it took me two and a half days to administer the 2014-2015 Grade 1 Math Inventory Baseline Performance Tasks to my students because the assessment had to be administered as individual interviews (NYCDOE words, not mine). The math inventory included 12 tasks, many of which were developmentally inappropriate. For example, in demonstrating their understanding of place value, first graders were asked to compare two 3-digit numbers using and =. Students were also asked to solve addition and subtraction word problems within 100.

“While I do not believe my students were emotionally scarred by this experience, they did lose two and a half days of instructional time and were tested on skills that they had not yet learned. It is no secret that NYC teachers and administrators view these MOSL tasks as a joke. Remember, they are for teacher rating purposes ONLY. “You want them to score low in the fall so that they’ll show growth in the spring,” is a common utterance in elementary school hallways. Also, there will be even more teaching-to-the-test as educators will want to ensure that their students are proficient in these skills before the administration of the spring assessment. Some of the first grade skills might be valid, but others are, arguably, not grade-level appropriate.

“The Grade 1 ELA (English-language Arts) Informational Reading and Writing Baseline Performance Task took less time to administer (four periods only) but was equally senseless, and the texts we were given had us shaking our heads because they resembled third grade reading material. In theory, not necessarily practice, students were required to engage in a non-fiction read aloud and then independently read an informational text on the same topic. Afterwards, they had to sort through a barrage of text-based facts in order to select information that correctly answered the questions. On day one, the students had to complete a graphic organizer and on day two they were asked to write a paragraph on the topic. Drawing pictures to convey their understanding of the topic was also included in the assessment.”

Lapham was surprised to learn that there is an alternative assessment that progressive schools use. She wonders why her school, in a poor neighborhood, was never informed about the option.

Be very careful about claims of schools that miraculously “turned around” in a matter of months or even in a couple of years. The usual formula is: fire everybody, hire a new staff, and the students become brilliant.

But then Gary Rubinstein investigates, and the miracle dissolves under his careful analysis.

Here is one. Gary writes that Joel Klein in his new book boasts of the amazing turnaround that happened when he shuttered Paul Robeson High School and opened P-Tech. Only a year and a half later, President Obama praised P-Tech in his State of the Union address.

But the high school scores were released a few days ago, P-Tech was one of the city’s lowest performing schools. Gary wrote, “This could be the most un-miraculous miracle school I’ve ever investigated.”

Another school in the news is Boys and Girls High School, also in Brooklyn. The media has been demanding that it be closed down because of low test scores. But its scores are much higher than those of the celebrated P-Tech!

Gary wonders whether reformers will start demanding that P-Tech be shut down.

In New York City, there is an effort to bring together teachers and principals in public schools to learn from high-performing charter schools. What are the secrets of their success?


Apparently the lessons from charter schools were taken to heart by the new principal of troubled Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. He has asked low-performing students, students who don’t have enough credits, to transfer out. Is this one of the secrets of charter success that should be used by public schools? In the few weeks that the new principal has been in charge, 30 students have been pushed out. One was a boy who had literally turned his life around and was elected junior class president:


Calvin Brown, Jr. enrolled at Boys and Girls High School midway through his sophomore year after falling behind at a nearby charter school. Though the Bedford-Stuyvesant high school is considered one of the city’s worst, Brown thrived there.
He became the junior class president last year and the captain of the debate team, which is set to travel to South Africa next month for a competition. He had entered the school with just seven credits, but as he started his senior year this September he had three times that amount — still half as many as he needs to graduate, but he was catching up.


Then, after the school’s outspoken principal resigned last month, the city installed a new leader to turn around the troubled school. Under new principal Michael Wiltshire, students who are missing many credits or otherwise unlikely to graduate this year have been encouraged to transfer out, according to Brown and staffers at the school. Brown was one of the students urged to leave.
“They made me transfer,” said Brown, 17. “They don’t want me on the Boys and Girls roster.”


The principal must have realized that the secret to having a high-performing school is to get rid of the low-performing students. Is this equality of educational opportunity? Is this public education?


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