Archives for category: Principals

JOIN US FOR THE FIRST PUBLIC EDUCATION NATION ON OCTOBER 11!

NBC has abandoned its annual “education nation” funded by Gates and featuring the leaders of privatization and high-stakes testing.

Now is our hour! We are here for you! We are here for the millions of students, teachers, parents, and administrators who are part of public education. We are here permanently. We are not going away.

Coming Saturday, Oct.11

PUBLIC Education Nation

Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core

Just Two Weeks Away! The first-ever PUBLIC Education Nation

This time we own the table, and we will bring together educators, parents and students to tell the truth about what is happening in our schools, and what real reform ought to be all about.

Next Sunday, October 5, will be our major money bomb online fundraiser for the event. This is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Bloomberg or Walton foundations – it is sponsored by US – each and every person who cares about the future of public education. Please donate here, and spread the word.

If you are in the New York area, and would like to attend the October 11 event in person, please show up by 11:30 am at 610 Henry St at Brooklyn New School/Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, and register here in advance. You can also sign up for the online event on Facebook here.

Follow us on Twitter at @PublicEdNation & @NetworkPublicEd

Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core

One of the highlights of the event will be the very first panel,

Testing and the Common Core, which will be moderated by New York’s high school Principal of the Year, Carol Burris. Burris has written extensively about equity in schools and the impact of the Common Core, and will bring her many years as an educator to the table. She will be joined by the following education experts:

Alan A. Aja, Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor & Deputy Chair of the Department of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies in Brooklyn College. His research examines race, gender and class disparities between and among Latino and African American communities; immigration/education policy; social and economic segregation; sustainable development and collective action/unionization. Before academia, Aja worked as a labor organizer in Texas, an environmental researcher in Cuba, a human rights organizer in Argentina and in a refugee hostel in London. He is a public school parent and elected member of the SLT (School Leadership Team) of PS264 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Dr. Aja will discuss the impact of common core aligned testing in New York, Kentucky and other states on marginalized communities, with attention to blacks, Latinos, ELLs, special ed/learning and disability students. He will present the early evidence to demonstrate that the Common Core and its testing is not resulting in the closing of the achievement gap, but may, instead be leaving disadvantaged students even further behind. He will also discuss alternative ways to increase student and school performance.

Rosa L. Rivera-McCutchen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at CUNY’s Lehman College. She began her career in education as a high school teacher in the Bronx.Her research examines the theory and practice of leadership in small schools in urban settings in order to create socially just and equitable schools for Black and Latino students. Dr. Rivera-McCutchen’s research has appeared in an edited book entitled Critical small schools: Beyond privatization in New York City urban educational reform.

Dr. Rivera McCutchen will focus on the moral imperative of leading for social justice in the face of CCSS and high-stakes testing. She will highlight the challenges leaders face in resisting, and focus on the strategies that leaders have used in mounting successful campaigns of resistance.

Takiema Bunche Smith is the Vice President of Education and Outreach at Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS), where she oversees educational programming and outreach initiatives at five preschools located in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. In both her professional and personal life, Ms. Bunche Smith is involved in various advocacy efforts that relate to early childhood care and education funding and policy, and the push-back against the overemphasis on high stakes testing in public schools. She has been a classroom teacher, teacher educator, content director for Sesame Street, and director of curriculum and instruction. She attended NYC public schools for 3rd-12th grade and is now a public school parent and member of the SLT at Brooklyn New School.

Ms. Bunche Smith will discuss the early childhood education implications of the Common Core and how it affects schools, students and parents. She will discuss various parent perspectives on the Common Core as well as critically highlight those who are not part of the conversation around Common Core.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, you can tune in online here at SchoolhouseLive.org to the live broadcast starting at 12 noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time.

The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.

The Network for Public Education is hosting this event. It is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Walton or Bloomberg foundations. It is sponsored by YOU, each and every one of the people who care about our children’s future.

Can you make a small donation to help us cover the expense of this event? We are determined to create the space not ordinarily given to voices like these. But we need your participation. Please donate by visiting the NPE website and clicking on the PayPal link.

A live-stream of the event will be available on Saturday, Oct. 11, starting at Noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time at http://www.schoolhouselive.org.

Support The Network for Public Education

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.

Over the past year, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on out first National Conference – an incredible success. In the coming year, we will hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To become a Member or to Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click on the PayPal link. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

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Fred Klonsky writes that in 2007, the Chicago Tribune praised CEO Arne Duncan because he would not be content with principals drawn from the ranks. not Arne! He was looking for superstar principals. Duncan was CEO because he lacked the experience as a teacher or a principal to be a superintendent.

The Tribune singled out one of Duncan’s “superstars”: Terrence P. Carter.

““Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

“For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.”

Klonsky writes:

“Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

“Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

“Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

“CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.”

Yet, Klonsky writes, the Chicago Tribune has not seen fit to report about Arne Duncan’s superstar, and Duncan has no comment.

Bob Shepherd writes on the absurd demands now placed on teachers and principals by politicians, who expect to see higher test scores every year. Step back and you realize that the politicians, the policy wonks, the economists, and the ideologues are ruining education, not improving it. They are doing their best to demoralize professional educators. What are they thinking? Are they thinking? Or is it just their love of disruption, let loose on children, families, communities, and educators?

Bon Shepherd writes:

OK, you are sitting in your year-end evaluation session, and you’ve heard from every other teacher in your school that his or her scores were a full level lower this year than last, and so you know that the central office has leaned on the principal to give fewer exemplary ratings even though your school actually doesn’t have a problem with its test scores and people are doing what they did last year but a bit better, of course, because one grows each year as a teacher–one refines what one did before, and one never stops learning.

But you know that this ritual doesn’t have anything, really, to do with improvement. It has to do with everyone, all along the line, covering his or her tushy and playing the game and doing exactly what he or she is told. And, at any rate, everyone knows that the tests are not particularly valid and that’s not really the issue at your school because, the test scores are pretty good because this is a suburban school with affluent parents, and the kids always, year after year, do quite well.

So whether the kids are learning isn’t really the issue. The issue is that by some sort of magic formula, each cohort of kids is supposed to perform better than the last–significantly better–on the tests, though they come into your classes in exactly the same shape they’ve always come into them in because, you know, they are kids and they are just learning and teaching ISN’T magic. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s magical, sometimes, of course, but its’ not magic. There’s no magic formula.

So, the stuff you’ve been told to do in your “trainings” (“Bark. Roll over. Sit. Good Boy”) is pretty transparently teaching-to-the-test because that’s the only way the insane demand that each cohort will be magically superior to the last as measured by these tests can be met, but you feel in your heart of hearts that doing that would be JUST WRONG–it would short-change your students to start teaching InstaWriting-for-the-Test, Grade 5, instead of, say, teaching writing. And despite all the demeaning crap you are subjected to, you still give a damn.

And you sit there and you actually feel sorry for this principal because she, too, is squirming like a fly in treacle in the muck that is Education Deform, and she knows she has fantastic teachers who knock it out of the park year after year, but her life has become a living hell of accountability reports and data chats to the point that she doesn’t have time for anything else anymore (she has said this many times), and now she has to sit there and tell her amazing veteran teachers who have worked so hard all these years and who care so much and give so much and are so learned and caring that they are just satisfactory, and she feels like hell doing this and is wondering when she can retire.

And the fact that you BOTH know this hangs there in the room–the big, ugly, unspoken thing. And the politicians and the plutocrats and the policy wonks at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Secretary of the Department for the Standardization of US Education, formerly the USDE, and the Vichy education guru collaborators with these people barrel ahead, like so many drunks in a car plowing through a crowd of pedestrians.

Laurel Sturt says that old-fashioned schoolyard bullying has evolved into Internet malice, protected by anonymity. She says bullying has become a national pastime for some political leaders. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has cultivated a reputation as a bully, jabbing his finger at lesser mortals.

And then bullying is built into education policy–federal, state, and local.

She writes:

“Though the psychopathic rush of inflicting pain on another human being is not one most of us would appreciate, we have only to look at the realm of education to see an acceleration of bullying, in multiple guises. Take, for example, the oppressive federal mandates sent down from on high, No Child Left Behind, and its successor, Race to the Top. Here we have, for all intents and purposes, sadistic edicts impossible to fulfill, the charge of NCLB, “proficiency” for all children by 2014, nothing short of an iron mask for teachers and kids alike; states were bullied to participate to get millions in federal school funding. One would think subjecting kids to the torture of test prep and testing while losing a decade of authentic education, tilting futilely at an arbitrary data windmill, would have been consigned to the mistakes file. Yet, showing that arm twisting through policy is an equal opportunity, bipartisan affront, through his Bully of Education Arne Duncan, the very premise of Obama’s RTTT has relied on the legalized notion of bullying, bribery and extortion: sign on to our agenda or you’ll starve for funds.

“Within the Race to the Top straitjacket, then, the bullying theme has continued with the individual mandates: bullying standards developed undemocratically by not educators but profit-motivated bullies; bullied instruction forced on teachers by these standards; and parents bullied to share their children’s private data, their rights to privacy stripped by education business lobbyist cum bullies. Then there’s the bullying of teachers through evaluations unfairly tied to the test scores of the bullied kids, victimized students who, subjected to impossible work and tests, are displaying symptoms of bullying–depression, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, hopelessness, with the added bonus of a PTSD scar for life.

“Move down to the next level of power, and state and local bullying is flourishing. Here in New York we have a governor and education officials stonily unmoved by the pain they’ve signed us onto with RTTT, with no movement in sight to end it, notwithstanding a coming fall election; their intransigent coercion in the face of hardship is bullying. New York City teachers and students recently endured a decade of bullying micromanagement under the dictator Michael Bloomberg, a mayor in control of the schools, a nationwide experiment which has yielded low achievement results but a much higher degree of yes, bullying.”

Bullying moves into the classroom, where teachers are compelled to violate their professional ethics by authoritarian principals.

The bullying will continue until teachers stand united and resist. Those who bully them, steal their reputations and their profession can and must be stopped. Resistance is the best defense against the bullies. Don’t stand alone. Stand together.

Troy LaRavierre, principal of Blaine Elementary school, one of the highest performing schools in the city, decided he had had enough. He wrote a candid letter to the Chicago Sun-Times blasting the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose political interference and disrespect were unprecedented in his career.

This is a man of courage. He won’t be silenced, not by Rahm Emanuel or anyone else who demands that he betray the best interests of the children in his care. No, he is not a “hero” like the billionaires pumping millions into the destruction of public education. He is the real thing.

He wrote to the Chicago Sun-Times:

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“Since 2011, CPS principals and teachers have experienced unprecedented political burdens. Early on, teachers felt publicly maligned and disrespected by the mayor, leading to the historic strike of 2012.

“While publicly praising principals in speeches and with awards, behind the scenes this administration has disregarded principals’ knowledge and experience. They have ignored and even suppressed principals’ voices in order to push City Hall’s political agenda for Chicago’s schools.

“The administration’s interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didn’t matter. “You are Board employees,” a central office official told a room full of principals at a meeting, “and when you speak, your comments must be in line with the Board’s agenda.” He instructed us to have an “elevator speech” supporting the longer day ready at a moment’s notice. We were told that if Emanuel and the press walked into our schools, we’d better be prepared to list the benefits of his longer day. In a move that further humiliated principals, they were called on at random to give their elevator speeches at subsequent principal meetings.

“Shortly afterward, CPS slashed school budgets, voted to close 50 schools and made disingenuous statements about the slashed budget giving more “autonomy” to principals. They insinuated these cuts would have little effect on classrooms. I spoke up to give Chicagoans a factual assessment of the effects of these cuts. A reporter from WBEZ Radio recorded a statement I delivered at City Hall in July 2013 and posted it on the station’s website. It became one of the station’s most downloaded audio files.

“Several months later, I spoke about overcrowded schools on WYCC television. A few hours before filming, I emailed CPS officials to inform them. Later that afternoon — unaware the show had already been taped — those officials told me not to appear because I did not have permission. On the subject of whether I had the right to speak as a private citizen, CPS said I should wait to receive clarity. After more than two months I’m still waiting for “clarity” from CPS on my right to speak.

“Recently, during a break at a training session, a few principals gathered to discuss what they could not say publicly. They expressed concerns about the impact of Emanuel’s effort to cut teacher pensions on our ability to recruit talented people into the teaching profession. They questioned unfunded mandates that pull resources from classrooms, and condemned CPS’ expenditure of over $20 million on Supes Academy — an organization the CEO of CPS once worked for — to provide principal training, a training that principals agreed was among the worst they’d experienced.

“Principal after principal expressed legitimate concerns that none felt safe expressing publicly. Finally, I spoke.

“This administration gets away with this because we let them. We are the professionals. Yet, we allow political interests to dominate the public conversation about what’s good for the children in our schools. Every time these officials misinform the public about the impact of their policies, we need to follow them with a press conference of our own to set the record straight.”

“Those who responded expressed concerns about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation. Principals sat paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth. One of them asked me plainly, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job?” The question awakened a memory:

“General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!”

“In 1989, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier and accustomed to hearing the “General Quarters” battle readiness exercise. However, on January 4 of that year, it came with a sobering declaration: “This is not a drill.”

“Our ship had entered the Gulf of Sidra near Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and crossed Gaddafi’s “Line of Death.” Two Libyan warplanes were headed our way. Fortunately, our F-14 fighter jet pilots were able to shoot the warplanes down. Our captain later praised the pilots and ship’s crew for our willingness to risk our lives to preserve American freedoms.

“So when people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job if you speak out?” this is my answer: I did not travel across an ocean and risk my life to defend American freedoms only to return and relinquish those freedoms to an elected official and his appointed board of education.”

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.

 

The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:

 

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

 

First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:

 

Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.

 

Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

 

Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”

 

Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

 

Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.

 

Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.

 

 

 

 

Today, parents and students rallied against the state tests at dozens of schools across New York City, unassuaged by State Commissioner John King’s claims that the tests were better this year and consumed less than 1% of the year. Little children that had sat for three hours of reading tests did not take comfort in his words, and parents demanded transparency.

“The protests, which drew hundreds of people to some schools before the start of classes, followed a speech Thursday by New York State Education Commissioner John King, in which he fiercely defended the state’s education initiatives, including the new standards and tests.

“He described recent debates over those efforts as “noise” and “drama,” and attributed some of the outcry to “misinformation.” And while acknowledging that some schools spend too much time preparing for tests, he insisted that the state had worked to reduce testing time. He added that the new Common Core exams “are better tests” than previous ones.

“His comments struck a nerve with some of the principals, who usually avoid getting involved in education’s political fights, but felt impelled to refute the notion that misinformed members of the public were stirring up unrest about the tests.

“P.S. 59 Principal Adele Schroeter said the hundreds of parents and students who filled the streets around her Midtown school Friday morning were “more than noise and drama, in spite of what John King might say.””

Tomorrow, dozens of Manhattan principals plan their own protests. One of them wrote in a letter to parents: ““I have never seen a more atrocious exam.”

“Echoing criticisms of the exams that other educators have posted online, the Manhattan principals said the tests did not measure the type of analytical reading and writing they associate with the Common Core standards. They also argued that the tests were too long and many of the multiple-choice answers were bafflingly similar.

“I have a double masters and some of them could be A or C,” said Medea McEvoy, principal of P.S. 267 on the Upper East Side, one of the schools planning to protest.

“The principals also said that confidentiality rules shield the test maker, publishing giant Pearson, from public scrutiny. And because only a portion of the test questions are eventually released, they said, teachers cannot rely on them as instructional tools.
The school leaders added that, considering all the flaws they found in the exams, they do not trust the state’s new evaluations that rate teachers partly on their students’ test scores.”

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

Chalkbeat reports that the principal of a NYC charter school has gone from one position to the next, touting fake credentials.

Despite the fact that he had been forced out of other schools, despite the fact that he made numerous other unsubstantiated claims about jobs he had held, he was hired to run a charter for transfer students, a school for students at risk of not graduating.

His résumé is impressive:

“He claimed to have been a senior adviser to Barack Obama as a senator and a consultant to Hillary Rodham Clinton. He said he had served as a deputy chief of staff for Carrie Meek, then a U.S. Representative. He claimed to have a doctoral degree. And he said he was the principal of a school in Washington, D.C. where he was actually a teacher….”

“From Feb. 2009 to June 2010, Thomas worked as a program director for Phase 4 Learning Center, a nonprofit that operates alternative education centers in Pennsylvania. The company’s CEO, Terrie Suica-Reed, said that Thomas’s deception while working for her company “was enough that he had to be released from all duties and all association with Phase 4.”
“I would listen to the warning signs,” Suica-Reed said.

In New York City, Thomas served as a “principal-in-residence” for New Visions for Public Schools from March to June 2011. The nonprofit then tapped Thomas to be the principal of its first high school, the New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities.
New Visions spokesman Tim Farrell said that Thomas was a part of the school’s “start-up team” but left before it opened that fall, and would not comment further on his departure.

The article suggests that charters may have to e more careful about hiring principals.

Of course, when public funds flow to unregulated schools that are not required to comply with state law governing credentials and qualifications, problems will arise.

This statement was written by Katie Zahedi and Bianca Tanis.

Katie Zahedi is principal at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, NY, and serves on the administrative panel for NYSAPE.
Bianca Tanis is a public school parent in the Hudson Valley as well as an elementary special education teacher and a co-founder of NYS Allies for Public Education.

“We ask that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents act to reform hiring and appointment procedures for employees and new regent members. The lack of professional and scholarly input has produced many of the problems with the failed Regents Reform Agenda. Constituencies in education have historically guarded against governmental involvement in education, yet there are unprecedented requests of the legislature for protection from the corporatized dismantling of public education by NYSED leadership.

Our comments embody attempts to advocate for a secure future for public schools and do not represent their respective school districts.
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Bianca Tanis and Katie Zahedi, a teacher and a principal are asking that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents reform hiring and appointment procedures for employees and new regent members. A lack of professional and scholarly input has produced many mistakes and a failed Regents Reform Agenda. Constituencies in education have historically guarded against governmental involvement in education, yet there are unprecedented requests of the legislature for protection from the corporatized dismantling of public education by NYSED. Their comments constitute advocacy for a secure future for public schools and do not represent their respective school districts.

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NYSED has been enforcing standards based evaluations for teachers and principals, despite the absence of consistently used standards and protocols for hiring or evaluating NYSED. The current commissioner’s performance program is not public, though it was under Commissioner Mills. As such, schools are held accountable to increased standards under a department that is violating the state labor contract. The commissioner was hired without a formal search or established criteria. There are unqualified “fellows” hired as “consultants” who are doing work not appropriately linked to approvable expenditures for consultants or accountable to any public entity because they are privately funded. There are postings for temporary employees to evaluate APPR plans, with a pre-requisite “one year of relevant professional experience”.  The Regents’ appointment process is in need of review, while the NYSED has allowed corporate know-nothings to design curriculum that is being forced on our schools.

 

Are these inappropriate hiring practices at NYSED upholding flawed policies that waste time, public money and hurt students?  Are we comfortable leaving implementation of education reform to unproven methodologies managed by private consultants who are unaccountable to the public? The two images depicted here include: 1) an advertisement for temporary employment seeking applicants with minimal qualifications (one year of relevant experience) to evaluate the compliance plans of New York School districts to the SED’s directives, and 2) a FOIL submitted by the Professional Employees Association (PEF) at the NYSED for what they believe may be the illegal relocation of their work, which is currently being done by others in private offices under the direction of the questionably hired fellows.

Some professionals are rendered speechless at the chagrin of what is happening in full public view. Those who are able to respond to the overbearing conditions have written to leadership, requested meetings, spoken at forums all over the state, and pleaded with elected officials to intervene in the troubling course.  Has the time yet come to turn the APPR (teacher and principal evaluation system) around?  If so, we encourage policy makers on the Board of Regents and SED executive staff to reflect and consider their performance on a state HEDI band. In case you don’t know what we mean, are they “Highly Qualified”; “Effective”; “Developing”; or “Ineffective” as leaders of the NYSED?

 

The Regents oversee education but the board is presently populated with few individuals possessing experience or expertise relevant to educational governance at the state level. With four seats open on the board, we encourage hiring and selection criteria for all appointments based on professional expertise and related criteria.  The best candidates will have backgrounds in education, with increased representation from stakeholder groups such as experienced K-12 practitioners, parents and advocates of students enrolled in public schools and scholars of education history, policy and practice.

 

The NYSED has only grudgingly listened to educators. They have resisted input from scholars who have sought to assist with analysis of reform efforts and systems of implementation now under review. NYSED leadership’s almost fetishistic obsession with data in the absence of substantive analysis of the efficacy of high-stakes tests and test scores vis-à-vis their meaning or relevance to school improvement and student learning has effectively obscured any focus on reforms that might actually work. Innovation, at the heart of American success, doesn’t appear to be tightly coupled with an ability to answer fact-based questions correctly. What if social emotional learning, creativity and relationships are more relevant to success than test rankings? Who will be accountable for RTTT if it cripples student progress?

 

While NYSED is preoccupied with unreflective implementation, even scant effort would yield local assistance.  For example, at the Department of Education Administration and Policy Studies at SUNY Albany, within a half an hour of the commissioner’s office, are experts who can assist them with a better understanding of the macro-factors contributing to comparatively lower scores of US students on the Program for International Students Assessment (PISA) league tables.  Lower international rankings are driving RTTT, so understanding causality is critical to the design of appropriate solutions. Perhaps the Board Secretary might order a few copies of Pisa, Power, and Policy and the Globalization of Educational Governance, written by experts at SUNY, Albany.  Editors, Meyer and Benavot, scholars at the State University of New York (Albany), may be willing to drive across town to help them understand faulty assumptions driving RTTT that has shaped the policies that are creating havoc in New York schools.

 

APPR and CCLS, as formulated, are crumbling.  We suggest that APPR with number grades for teachers that are tied to student test scores, be scrapped and the CCLS be left to the states and districts for review. Meanwhile, SED mandates should cease until our leadership is properly reviewed and a higher standard is applied to their hiring and evaluation.  The public will soon be asking who is going to be accountable for the billions of dollars wasted on systems that were imposed on schools against the earnest advisement of professionals in the field.

 

We want to acknowledge that the Regents are public-minded in their service as volunteers and thank them all for their efforts. Commitment and devotion are respected, but we call for standards guiding the Regents selection process.  While it may be difficult, we are asking for decision makers to vote for what is best for schools and children even if it means that the calls for “change” that have been enacted on schools are now applied to themselves. They will know what is best by speaking with actual school leaders, not policy entrepreneurs!

 

Heinz-Dieter Meyer & Aaron Benavot. Introduction. PISA and the Globalization of Education Governance: some puzzles and problems. OXFORD STUDIES IN COMPARATIVE EDUCATION

PISA, Power, and Policy. The Emergence of Global Educational Governance
Edited by HEINZ-DIETER MEYER & AARON BENAVOT (Benavot, 2013)

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