Archives for category: Principals

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, New York, doesn’t think much of Governor Cuomo’s proposal for teachers to be evaluated by drop-by outsiders. The Governor made this part of his education package of “reforms.” His original proposal, which has been handed over to the State Education Department (or the Board of Regents) was to have test scores count for 50% of each teacher’s evaluation, to have 35% determined by an “independent evaluator,” and only 15% based on the principal’s judgment. Who would these outside evaluators be? How much would they be paid? What would it cost? How many would be hired to review the work of every teacher in the state? How much time would they spend with each teacher? This is the kind of idea that would be dreamed up only by someone who never was a principal or a teacher.

Here is what Burris says:

The folks up in Albany are showing once again that they never met a bad idea they didn’t like. The idea that teaching would improve if only “outsiders” came in to do observations is absurd.

When confronted with the costs of this half-baked scheme, legislators suggested that money could be saved by “swapping” administrators among districts to do observations. Can you imagine the consequences of putting this idea in place?

Schools would not function as principals are put on the road to observe teachers in other schools, leaving their own students and teachers without support when a crisis occurs. In rural New York, schools may be an hour or more apart. If the outside observations stay within the district, we would have elementary principals observing physics classes, and high school principals observing pre-k.

Observations would become little more than a check list hastily done by someone who has no vested interest in helping the teacher improve. One might imagine a cadre of “hired guns” who excel in writing harsh observations being brought in to a school to get a teacher who is respected in the building principal but not by a district office or a Board of Education.

This scheme makes one thing crystal clear–Cuomo despises teachers and the principals who support them. Let’s see if the legislature goes along or stands up for our public schools and the children they serve.

Ken Mitchell, who recently retired as a school superintendent, attempts to shed light on thorny problems in current education policy in this article.

 

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been dismal failures, and their main result appears to be the creation of chaos and incoherence at the local level. Both assume that standardized tests are not only the measure of education but the goal of education. Legislators are reacting by passing laws about how to evaluate teachers, a subject about which they are not expert and not well-informed.

 

Mitchell calls for the creation of an education summit, but with a twist:

 

It is time for an education summit, but not one that emanates from the governor’s office.

 

The governor has appointed commissions on mandate relief, school reform, and Common Core, naming members who often lacked expertise or objectivity. This time we need a summit involving stakeholders: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and school boards. We need a de-politicized venue to ensure an objective analysis of the evidence behind current and proposed reforms related to assessment, teacher evaluation, Common Core and charter schools. If policymakers continue to mandate without evidence and allow profiteers to influence educational decisions, children will be harmed and public education ruined.

 

His suggestion makes sense. The Legislature should listen to the experts, rather than attempt to regulate the teaching profession. They would never dream of passing laws to evaluate the medical profession or any other profession. Why should they tell principals and superintendents how to evaluate teachers?

Roseanne Woods was a high school principal in Florida for 32 years. She is now a protester and a blogger. She is outraged by Florida’s punitive testing and accountability regime. In this post, she describes a state that cares more about testing than teaching.

For her steadfast dedication to real education, I place Roseanne Woods on the blog’s honor roll.

She writes:

“Children are stressed out and parents are m ad enough to want their children to “Opt-Out” of all high-stakes testing. Frustrated teachers are leaving the profession and superintendents are demanding real change. Lawmakers: how about some real relief?

 

“Florida schools are about to hit the big testing/school grades accountability iceberg this spring. Why? This year, instead of FCAT, all 3rd-11th grade students will be taking brand new tests on the extremely challenging Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), aka, Common Core Standards. Third graders who don’t score well on reading will be retained and high school students who don’t pass will not graduate. Schools will receive A-F school grades based on these scores.

 

“Not to worry—districts have been assured by DOE that the scores will be “normed” (manipulated) to match last year’s scores. Somehow, that gives little comfort

 

“Here’s a sample 3rd grade math problem— ‘A bakery uses 48 pounds of flour each day. It orders flour every 28 days. Create an equation that shows how many pounds of flour the bakery
needs to order every 28 days.’

 

“Any wonder many parents are having trouble helping their children with homework?

 

“There are now 154 of the 180 days on the Florida State Testing Calendar devoted to a variety of required state assessments in grades K-12 that effect schools’ grades. Any wonder that schools are spending more and more time prepping and practicing for these tests?…

 

“To make matters worse, schools also have to implement Florida Statute 1012.34– requiring 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on “rigorous” tests for every subject/course taught. So, at great expense, school districts have been scrambling to create over 1200 tests on courses not covered by the required Florida Standards Assessments, FSA. These district assessments must cover quite the spectrum including art, physical ed., drama and guidance counselors. By law, elementary students must take 6-7 end-of-course tests to prove their teachers did a good enough job to be eligible for a performance bonus.”

 

Florida is a very sick state. Please, someone, invite the Governor and the State Board of Education to visit Finland! All that time and money for testing is wasted.

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.

 

The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.

Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

Peter Greene reports that the National Association of Secondary School Principals is reviewing and likely to endorse a statement rejecting VAM. The NASSP recognizes a growing body of research that shows the inaccuracy of VAM.

They cite the research, then offer recommendations:

“NASSP recommends that teacher eval include multiple measure, and that Peer Assistance and Review programs are the way to go. Teacher-constructed portfolios of student learning are also cool.

“VAMs should be used to fine tune programs and instructional methods as well as professional development on a building level, but they should not be “used to make key personnel decisions about individual teachers.” Principals should be trained in how to properly interpret and use VAMmy data.”

This is an important step forward, toward professional responsibilty and common sense.

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.

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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.

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