Archives for category: Class size

Last week, I posted my thoughts on “Who Demoralized the Nation’s Teachers?” I sought to identify the people and organizations that spread the lie that America’s public schools were “broken” and that public school teachers were the cause. The critics slandered teachers repeatedly, claiming that teachers were dragging down student test scores. They said that today’s teachers were not bright enough; they said teachers had low SAT scores; and they were no longer “the best and the brightest.”

The “corporate reform” movement (the disruption movement) was driven in large part by the “reformers'” belief that public schools were obsolete and their teachers were the bottom of the barrel. So the “reformers” promoted school choice, especially charter schools, and Teach for America, to provide the labor supply for charter schools. TFA promised to bring smart college graduates for at least two years to staff public schools and charter schools, replacing the public school teachers whom TFA believed had low expectations. TFA would have high expectations, and these newcomers with their high SAT scores would turn around the nation’s schools. The “reformers” also promoted the spurious, ineffective and harmful idea that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, although this method repeatedly, consistently showed that those who taught affluent children were excellent, while those who taught children with special needs or limited-English proficiency or high poverty were unsatisfactory. “Value-added” methodology ranked teachers by the income and background of their students’ families, not by the teachers’ effectiveness.

All of these claims were propaganda that was skillfully utilized by people who wanted to privatize the funding of public education, eliminate unions, and crush the teaching profession.

The response to the post was immediate and sizable. Some thought the list of names and groups I posted was dated, others thought it needed additions. The comments of readers were so interesting that I present them here as a supplement to my original post. My list identified No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core as causes of demoralization that tied teachers to a standards-and-testing regime that reduced their autonomy as professionals. One reader said that the real beginning of the war on teachers was the Reagan-era report called “A Nation at Risk,” which asserted that American public schools were mired in mediocrity and needed dramatic changes. I agree that the “Nation at Risk” report launched the era of public-school bashing. But it was NCLB and the other “solutions” that launched teacher-bashing, blaming teachers for low test scores and judging teachers by their test scores. It should be noted that the crest of “reform” was 2010, when “Waiting for Superman” was released, Common Core was put into place, value-added test scores for teachers were published, and “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and other became media stars, with their constant teacher-bashing. For what it’s worth, the National Assessment of Educational Progress flatlined from 2010 onwards. Test score gains, which were supposedly the point of all this “reform” activity, were non-existent on the nation’s most consequential test (no stakes attached).

Readers also blamed demoralization on teachers’ loss of autonomy, caused by federal laws and the testing imposed by them, and by the weakness of principals and administrators who did not protect teachers from the anti-education climate caused by NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, and the test-and-punish mindset that gripped the minds of the nation’s legislators and school leaders.

Readers said that my list left off important names of those responsible for demoralizing the nation’s teachers.

Here are readers’ additions, paraphrased by me:

Michelle Rhee, who was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the person who knew “How to Fix American Education” and lionized in a story by Amanda Ripley. Rhee was shown holding a broom, preparing to sweep “bad teachers” and “bad principals” out of the schools. During her brief tenure as Chancellor of D.C., she fired scores of teachers and added to her ruthless reputation by firing a principal on national television. For doing so, she was the Queen of “education reform” in the eyes of the national media until USA Today broke a major cheating scandal in the D.C. schools.

Joel Klein, antitrust lawyer who was chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to become the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, where he closed scores of schools because of their low test scores, embraced test-based evaluation of schools and teachers, and opened hundreds of small specialized schools and charter schools. He frequently derided teachers and blamed them for lagging test scores. He frequently reorganized the entire, vast school system, surrounding himself with aides with Business School graduates and Wall Street credentials. Under his leadership, NYC was the epitome of corporate reform, which inherently disrespected career educators.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, billionaire funder of charter schools and of candidates running for state or local offices who supported privatization of public schools. He claimed that under his leadership, the test-score gap between different racial gaps had been cut in half or even closed, but it wasn’t true. He stated his desire to fire teachers who couldn’t “produce” high test scores, while doubling the size of the classes of teachers who could. His huge public relations staff circulated the story of a “New York City Miracle,” but it didn’t exist and evaporated as soon as he left office.

Reed Hastings, billionaire funder of charter schools and founder of Netflix. He expressed the wish that all school boards would be eliminated. The charter school was his ideal, managed privately without public oversight.

John King, charter school leader who was appointed New York Commissioner of Education. He was a cheerleader for the Common Core and high-stakes testing. He made parents so angry by his policies that he stopped appearing at public events. He was named U.S. Secretary of Education, following Arne Duncan, in the last year of the Obama administration and continued to advocate for the same ill-fated policies as Duncan.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education despised public schools, unions, and teachers. She never had a good word to say about public schools. She wanted every student to attend religious schools at public expense.

Eli Broad and the “academy” he created to train superintendents with his ideas about top-down management and the alleged value of closing schools with low test scores

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation for privatizing public schools by opening charters and vouchers and lowering standards for teachers and crushing unions. More than 2,000 rightwing state legislators belong to ALEC and get their ideas directly from ALEC about privatization and other ways to crush public schools and their teachers.

Rupert Murdoch, the media, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post for their hostility towards public schools and their warm, breathless reporting about charter schools and Teach for America. The Washington Post editorialist is a devotee of charter schools and loved Michelle Rhee’s cut-throat style. TIME ran two cover stories endorsing the “reform” movement; the one featuring Michelle Rhee, and the other referring to one of every four public school teachers as a “rotten apple.” The second cover lauded the idea that teachers were the cause of low test scores, and one of every four should be weeded out. Newsweek also had a Rhee cover, and another that declared in a sentence repeated on a chalkboard, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” as though the public schools were overrun with miscreant teachers.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, which undermined the autonomy of teachers and ironically removed teachers’ focus on content and replaced it with empty skills. The Common Core valued “informational text” over literature and urged teachers to reduce time spent teaching literature.

Margaret Raymond, of the Walton-funded CREDO, which evaluates charter schools.

Hanna Skandera, who was Secretary of Education in New Mexico and tried to import the Florida model of testing, accountability, and choice to New Mexico. That state has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, and the Florida model didn’t make any difference.

Governors who bashed teachers and public schools, like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gregg Abbott of Texas

“Researchers” like those from the Fordham Institute, who saw nothing good in public schools or their teaching

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who turned Denver into a model of “reform,” with everything DFER wanted: charter schools and high-stakes testing.

Poorly behaving students and parents who won’t hold kids accountable for bad behavior

Campbell Brown and the 74

The U.S. Department of Education, for foisting terrible ideas on the nation’s schools and teachers, and state education departments and state superintendents for going along with these bad ideas. Not one state chief stood up and said, “We won’t do what is clearly wrong for our students and their teachers.”

The two big national unions, for going along with these bad ideas instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

And now I will quote readers’ comments exactly as they wrote them, without identifying their authors (they know who they are):

*Rightwing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Heritage Foundation, even the allegedly Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) for publishing white papers masquerading as education research that promotes privatization.

*Wall St moguls who invented Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) to gamble on & profit from preK student test scores.

*Rogues Gallery. One body blow after another. A systematic 💦 water boarding with no respite. And then we add the Broad Foundation who sent Broad-trained “leadership” so drunk on arrogance and ignorance that the term “School Yard Bully” just doesn’t capture it.
Operating with the Imprimatur and thin veneer of venture capital, plutocratic philanthropy, these haughty thugs devastated every good program they laid eyes on. Sinking their claws instinctively into the intelligent, effective and cultured faculty FIRST.A well orchestrated, heavily scripted Saturday Night Massacre.

*Congress and the Presidents set the stage, but the US Department of Education was instrumental in making it all happen. They effectively implemented a coherent program to attack, smear and otherwise demoralize teachers. And make no mistake, it was quite purposeful

*This list is incomplete without members of Democrats for Education Reform. Add in Senator Ted Kennedy, whose role in the passage of No Child Left Behind was critical. Same for then Congressman and future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted (bragged!) in his recent autobiography that he was essential in keeping President George W. Bush on track with NCLB.

*Let’s not forget Senate Chair Patty Murray. She has been an important player in keeping the worse of Ed Reform legislation alive.

*You have presented a rogue’s gallery of failed “reformers” that have worked against the common good. In addition to those mentioned, there has also been an ancillary group of promoters and enablers that have undermined public education including billionaire think tanks, foundations and members of both political parties. These people continue to spread lies and misinformation, and no amount of facts or research is able to diminish the drive to privatize. While so called reformers often hide behind an ideological shield, they are mostly about the greedy pursuit of appropriating the education that belongs to the people and transferring its billions in value into the pockets of the already wealthy. So called education reform is class warfare.

*The Clintons, whose 1994 reauthorization of ESEA set the stage for NCLB

*Don’t forget the so called ‘liberal’ media, publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe who have published pro charter piece after pro charter piece, while simultaneously dumping all over public schools

*I’d like to include a cast of editorialists like George Will, Bill Rhoden, and many others, who have parroted the plutocratic-backed Ed Reform line. Armstrong Williams would certainly be part of this.

*Going back even further into the origins of this madness, I would add to Diane’s excellent rogues gallery those unknown bureaucrats in state departments of education who replaced broad, general frameworks/overall strategic objectives with bullet lists of almost entirely content-free “standards” that served as the archetype of the Common [sic] Core [sic] based on the absurd theory that we should “teach skills” independent of content, all of which led, ironically, to trivialization of and aimlessnessness in ELA pedagogy and curricula and to a whole generation of young English teachers who themselves NOW KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING OF THE CONTENT OF THEIR SUBJECT, typified by the English teacher who told one of the parents who regularly contributes comments to this blog, “I’m an English teacher, so I don’t teach content.” So, today, instead of teaching, say, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of a coherent and cumulative unit on common structures and techniques and genres of poetry, one gets idiotic test-practice exercises on “inferencing” and “finding the main idea,” with any random piece of writing as the “text.”

*It’s driven by how teachers have been treated the past 4-5 years, especially during the pandemic. Teachers are first responders. We should have been on the list of first-to-be-vaccinated. Schools should have strict mask and vaccine mandates. Teachers are professional educators. We should not be told what and how to teach by ignorant, conspiracy-driven MAGA parents. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and we teachers are motivated by a sense of civic duty. We are demoralized by attempts to destroy public education, led by anti-education bible-thumping “leaders” like Betsy DeVos and (in my home state) Frank Edelblut. Public education is being dismantled by gleeful right-wingers, while naive, well-intentioned moderates wring their hands and do little to defend it. It’s tiring to be under constant attack on the front lines, with no support. That’s why teachers are leaving today.

*One tiny example of a routine phenomenon. Teachers got the message pretty clearly: They were at the bottom of the pecking order. The absolute bottom. Micromanaged and undercut at every turn.Excellent points. The heavy handed top-down, bureaucratic demands for “data,” basically serve one goal, to justify the existence of administration.Don’t forget the voracious appetite of publishing companies…We had a district administrator prance around in our “professional; development days” tell use could not read novels or other picture books to the students…ONLY USE PEARSON.”And then 7 or so years later, the district made us THROW OUT every book from Pearson, and they bought new crap curriculum…that program was written by testing industry, not educators, I think it was “Benchmark,” real junk.

*I’d like to mention how I often lose my student teachers when they see the edTPA requirement. They switch majors, and the teaching pool gets even smaller.

*After Skamdera in NM came the TFA VAM sweetheart Christopher Ruszkowski. At least he had 3 years in a classroom, Skammy had none, but the Florida model, you know?

*Children’s behavior is in large part in response to the drill and kill curriculum and endless testing and teaching to the test that has been driving public education since NCLB and the back-to-basics movement that ushered it in. No room for creativity, no room for self expression, no room for innovation. Highly scripted Curriculum like Open Court turned children into little automatons, barking their answers like well trained dogs and turned teachers into task masters. It was a drive to dummy down the curriculum for fear of teaching too much free thinking. And a drive to turn teachers into testing machines and teacher technicians, easily replaced by anyone who can walk in a classroom and pick up the manual. Only it doesn’t work. It was and is developmentally inappropriate and the resulting rebellion in the classrooms if proof of that. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

*Under threat of closure of the MA school board in the mid 1800s, Horace Mann turned to the cheapest labor he could find, literate northern females, and deployed the Protestant ethic “teacher as a calling” trope to institute state free-riding on teachers (as opposed to the free-riding of which teachers are accused). Everything in this piece is correct except for the “almost” in the final paragraph. There’s no “almost” about it … free-riding on teachers is an operational feature of a system imported from Prussia, designed to produce cheap, obedient labor by underpaying women. As of 2012, teachers would need to make around 1/3 higher salaries to be paid on the same level as their professional peers. Everyone mentioned in the article is simply this generation’s enactment of the long-standing, systemic class war that preys on gender and race to continue and exacerbate inequity. While naming the current situation is very important, we also need to discuss, address, and shift these deep issues.

*It’s the boiled frog effect over the last 50 years that began as a response to mini-courses, sixties curriculum, obsession over college attendance, professors and teachers walking out to protest with their students, Viet Nam… and the Civil Rights Act. Since 1964, Intentional segregation influenced Local, state, and federal decision making on transportation, health care, insurance, zoning, housing, education funding, hiring, and more. When whites fled the cities and insured two sides of the tracks in towns and two systems evolved, quick fixes became that accumulation of bad decisions and leadership – and slowly, slowly, deterioration became acceptable.

*The list is not dated. It’s illustrative of the accumulation of negativity, quick-fix seeking, acronym-filled, snake-oil salesmen, desperate mayors and governors, obsession with rankings, publisher fixation on common core, NCLB votes hidden under the shadow of 9/11, and keep-everyone-happy state and national professional organizations.

*At the end of 2021 it is far right and left of politics and their rhetoric like CRT and homophobic slurs. So much for especially the “Christian Right.” In their god’s (yes lower case since not The Lord Jesus Christ’s New Testament words of love) name they exclude instead of include to share the good news/word.

*Data, data, data. Yesterday, I commented that I feel sympathetic toward the anti-CRT petitioners. I do. They’re not bad people. They’re just afraid of changing social rules. Their actions are demoralizing, but not dehumanizing. Wealthy corporations and individuals on the other hand , through their untaxed foundations, gave carrots to governments the world over to give the stick to education so that greater profits could be made through privatization and data monetizing. I was once called a 2. I was once labeled the color grey. I was numbered, dehumanized by test score data in an attempt to make education like Uber or Yelp. Not just demoralized, dehumanized. It’s not just who but what dehumanized teachers. It was the wrongheaded idea that education can be measured and sold by the unit. That idea was insidious. The marketing ploy to make my students into consumers who consider their efforts junk unless they are labeled with the right number or dashboard color was insidious. I have no sympathy for the investor class. They are not people with whom I disagree about social issues; they are hostile, corporate takeover wolves out to tear the flesh of the formerly middle and deeply impoverished classes for profit. Not one of the investors in education “reform” or any of their revolving door bureaucrats is any friend of mine. The list of who is long. The list of what is short.

*Jonah Edelman (Founder, Stand on Children); brother Josh Edelman (Gates Foundation: Empowering-?!–Effective Teaching; SEED Charter Schools); Charles & David Koch. Pear$on Publishing monopoly&, of course, ALEC (interfering in our business for FIFTY long years!)


ATTORNEY FOR STATE OF NEVADA ARGUES THAT 60 THIRD GRADERS PER CLASSROOM WOULD BE CONSTITUTIONAL

State argues that only real requirement is one school per district and that state standards are simply “aspirational” and cannot be a basis to measure students’ right to a basic education

 

On Monday, December 6, attorneys representing several parents made their case to the Nevada Supreme Court on behalf of public-school students throughout the state. The oral arguments stem from a complaint filed on March 4, 2020, Shea v. Nevada, challenging the constitutionality of Nevada’s chronically under-resourced public education system. A lower court had previously determined that the case presented issues that are nonjusticiable, or not for courts to decide, leading to Monday’s appeal before the Court. 

Parents argued that this case is in fact justiciable and that Nevada courts have a critical role to play in determining whether the public education system is constitutionally adequate and if students have been denied their right to a quality education. Without court intervention, the condition and quality of our schools will continue to decline, as they have for years. 

To the shock of the parent plaintiffs and their attorneys, the State argued that the court’s hands would be tied even if third grade classrooms were filled with 60 students. The State argued that their only obligation under the Constitution is to have at least one school in each district. Nevada has long been ranked as the state with the largest class sizes in the country.

From The Hearing

Justice
: If there are classes in our high schools that have 50 or 60 students is that a basis to challenge whether in fact it is a basic education that is being provided? 

State: As someone who went to a college where I attended classes with hundreds of  students I personally would say no.                                                                             
 

Justice: I would hope that my 3rd grader wouldn’t be in one of those classes though.

State: I do agree with that. The issue is that those are not constitutionally provided.   

Justice: So it would be constitutional if 3rd graders were 50 or 60 students in a            class?                                                                                                                               

State: I do believe so, yes.                                                                                           

“We could not disagree more than we do,” said pro bono attorney representing the plaintiffs,  Bradley Shrager . “We find (educational standards) to be a positive right of the people of Nevada and school children — a right to a meaningful opportunity to a suitable education because when you say suitable, the point is suitable for what? Suitable for the rest of your life.”

As part of their duty under the constitution, our state has set standards to ensure our students are prepared to enter the adult world and even determined what resources are needed to meet those standards. Unfortunately, the State has wholly failed to provide those essential resources. To come before our courts and argue that 60 third graders in a classroom is basic or sufficient for our students shows how desperately our courts need to intervene and why our schools are in such a crisis. 
 

There are already 60 students packed in high school classrooms throughout Nevada schools, despite numerous State commissioned studies identifying small class sizes as essential to students meeting state  academic standards.  The state itself has set class size requirements for grades K-3, but 98% of schools do not meet these requirements, with insufficient funding often cited as the primary reason.   

As written in the complaint, “Plaintiffs ask this Court to determine and find that Nevada public education has fallen short of the requirements of the Nevada Constitution in providing the resources necessary to ensure a basic, uniform, and sufficient education for the schoolchildren of this state.” 
 

Nevada students have a constitutional right to a quality education, but the State has consistently failed in its responsibility to foster a system that delivers on that right. They have an obligation to our students, and they have failed.
 

Since the original filing more than a year ago, achievement results for students have dropped significantly, teachers continue to struggle in the largest class sizes in the country, and the pandemic has only exacerbated long standing resource issues. Nevada’s deficient education system has deteriorated further, with no clear path out of this ongoing crisis.
 

“Without the court’s intervention, I see no solution for our students. I’ve spent years of my children’s education advocating on their behalf and the behalf of all students to no avail, and in that time, resources have actually depleted rather than improved,” said Caryne Shea, one of the parent plaintiffs, “I am shocked and outraged at the state’s arguments which undermines and almost belittles the hard work of our educators and students. What our state leadership has done so far has not been effective and now our only hope for significant change lies in the hands of the court.”
Prior to the original filing, Nevada was one of only three states that had not been sued for failure to provide adequate K-12 resources. States like Wyoming, New Jersey, and many others have seen significant improvements in resources and achievement since victories in their lawsuits. 

As the representative for the state said “words do have meaning” and the words from the state made it more clear why the best hope for students is for courts to intervene. 
About Educate Nevada Now

The Rogers Foundation, a Nevada leader in support of public education, joined with local, state and national partners to launch Educate Nevada Now (ENN) in 2015. The organization is committed to school finance reform and improved educational opportunities and outcomes for all Nevada public school children, especially English language learners, gifted and talented students, students with disabilities or other special needs, and low-income students.

More information about ENN can be found athttp://www.educatenevadanow.com### P O W E R E D   B YCopyright © *2016, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
701 S. 9th Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, is one of the nation’s most persistent advocates of class size reduction. She is the voice of many parents in New York City, who regularly tell pollsters that their number 1 wish for their children is smaller classes. Now that the city’s public schools anticipate a new infusion of funds, Haimson and many parents are pressing to get a commitment from the city to reduce class sizes.

She writes in The Nation:

New York City public schools are often as crushed as the subway during rush hour, with literally thousands of students forced to learn in overstuffed classrooms—sitting side by side, elbows knocking into each other, or sometimes leaning against the wall or resting on a radiator. Even in the age of Covid-19, hallways are so jam-packed it can be hard for students to get to their next class.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way—and, if the city’s mayor and the City Council speaker would pass a crucial piece of legislation limiting class sizes in New York’s public schools, it wouldn’t have to continue. But as the end of the council’s term ticks closer, the two are standing in the way of a popular bill, adding a new and frustrating chapter to a drama that’s been playing out for decades.

New York City parents and educators have been calling for smaller class sizes since at least the 1960s. In 2003, the state’s highest court agreed with them. It concluded that class sizes were too large to provide students with their right, guaranteed by the state Constitution, to a sound basic education. It found that the plaintiffs, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, “presented measurable proof” that New York City schools have “excessive class sizes, and that class size affects learning.” It concluded:“The number of children in these straits is large enough to represent a systemic failure.”

To remedy this and other inequities, the court ordered that the state provide more funding to high-needs districts, and in 2007, the state passed a law requiring New York City to use these funds to lower class size. But then the Great Recession hit, and the full state funding never materialized. Class sizes actually increased.

Today, classes in the city’s public schools are larger than they were in 2003—especially in the early grades. Before the pandemic hit in 2020, more than 330,000 students—roughly a third of the school population—were crammed into classes of 30 or more. On average, classes in the city’s public schools are 15 percent to 30 percent larger than they are in the rest of the state. While both Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, the city’s most recent mayors, promised to address this critical inequity during their campaigns, both failed to follow through once elected.

Now, the pandemic has brought the perennial problem of class size into sharper focus, as the need for social distancing has made smaller classes more critical than ever. At the same time, Covid-19 has helped bring unprecedented resources that could be used to address the issue: Over the next three years, the city is due to receive an additional $8 billion in federal and state funds for our schools.

The federal funds are meant to help the city improve both the health and safety of the classroom environment—goals that smaller classes could help achieve. The state funds—which amount to $1.3 billion in additional annual aid, due to be phased in over three years—represent the long-overdue fulfillment of the mandate of the CFE case.

Together, these funds represent a remarkable opportunity, one the City Council recognized when it proposed that a substantial portion of them be allocated toward reducing class size. But the mayor balked. So the council’s education chair, Mark Treyger, introduced Int. 2374 in July, a bill that would effectively phase in smaller classes over three years. It would do this by increasing the per student square footage required in classrooms, ranging from about 18 to 26, depending on the grade level and room size.

The legislation currently has 41 cosponsors out of 50 members—a supermajority that could overturn the mayor’s likely veto. Yet the vote on this bill has been delayed by Speaker Corey Johnson, despite the fact that there are fewer than two weeks before the council adjourns for the year and a new one takes over in January.

Read on to review the research supporting the value of class size reduction as the most important and effective reform that schools should enact.

Why is City Council Chair Corey Johnson blocking this crucial measure?

On October 27, the New York City Council Committee on Education held a hearing on a bill to reduce class size. The chairman of the committee is Mark Treyger, a former teacher. The city’s Department of Education opposes the bill, based on the strain on facilities (there is never a problem finding space for a new charter school).

I testified in favor of class size reduction, along with Regent Kathy Cashin (a former teacher, principal, and superintendent), as well as a number of parent advocates and Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters.

Here is my statement, tailored to fit a 2-minute time limit.

I should have added this additional point.

Some people have said to me, “When I was in school, we had 40 or 50 kids in a class. Why do kids today need classes any smaller.?”

Answer: In those old days, schools operated on the principle of sink or swim. Those who couldn’t keep up either flunked or dropped out. Now we expect all students to finish high school. That can’t happen if class sizes are so large that children who struggle are overlooked.”

Mayoral control of the schools was never a good idea. The current race for mayor of New York City demonstrates that it is a horrible idea. The leading candidate at the moment is Eric Adams, who was a police office, a member of the legislature, and borough president of Brooklyn. Certainly he has deep experience in municipal affairs.

But his plans for education are unsound. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Mercedes Schneider lives in Louisiana but she spotted Adams’ platform on the running the schools and called him out for the worst plan ever proposed.

She writes:

Eric Adams is running for mayor of New York City.

He wants to assign hundreds of students to a single teacher because technology could allow it, and it costs less.

Of course, in Adams’ mind, the ridiculous student-teacher ratio is fine because *great teachers* with technology (aka, kids on laptops) produces “skillful” teaching. Consider Adams’ words in this February 2021 candidate interview with Citizens Budget Commission president, Andrew Rein, when Rein asks Adams about how much a “full year school year” would cost. 

Apparently, Adams’ plan is the well-worn ed-reform idea of cost-cutting excellence:

Think about this for a moment, let’s go with the full year school year because that’s important to me. When you look at the heart of the dysfunctionality of our city, it’s the Department of Education. We keep producing, broken children that turn into broken adults and live in a broken system. 80% of the men and women at Rikers Island don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma. 30% are reported based on one study to be dyslexic because we’re not doing what we should be doing in educating, we find ourselves putting young people in a place of being incarcerated. That must change. And so if you do a full year school year by using the new technology of remote learning, you don’t need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers, it’s just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach 300 to 400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way that they’re able to teach. 

Let’s look at our best mastered teachers and have them have programs where they’re no longer being just within a school building. We no longer have to live within the boundaries of walls, of locations. We can now have a different method of teaching and I’m going to have the best remote learning that we could possibly have, not just turning on the screen and having children look at someone or really being engaged.

When market-based ed reform hit Louisiana in 2011, one of my concerns as a classroom teacher was that I might be rated “highly effective” and *rewarded* with increased class sizes. That thinking was and still is an idiotic core belief of ed reform: A “great teacher” can continue to be great no matter how thin that teacher is spread in trying to meet the educational needs of any number of individual students.

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he once proposed a similar plan: Identify “great teachers” and double the size of their classes. No one thought that was a good idea. Adams wants the neediest children to be online in a class of 300-400 students. They will never get individual attention or help. Dumb idea.

But, wait! There’s more. After Adams got negative feedback for his proposal, he backtracked and said he had been misquoted or misunderstood. Leonie Haimson writes here that if most people learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that remote learning has limited and specific value. If students need extra attention, they will not be likely to get it in remote settings.

The nation’s two teachers’ unions joined together to issue an unusual joint statement that advises federal, state, and local leaders what must be done not only to revive education after the pandemic but to restart it with a fresh vision that focuses on the needs of children, not assumptions about their “learning loss” or “COVID slide.”

They introduce the document and its visionary proposals with these words:

Nation’s educators release shared agenda to ensure all students succeed Organizations offer proven ways to help students overcome Covid-19 opportunity gaps and meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs
 WASHINGTON, DC – Today the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s two largest educators’ unions, released a bold, shared agenda to ensure that all students receive the supports and resources they need to thrive now and in the future.  

Over the course of the last month, AFT and NEA have come together to define the essential elements needed to effectively understand and address the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students’ academic, social, and developmental experiences. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to create the public schools all our students deserve,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “It is our mission to demand stronger public schools and more opportunities for all students- Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike. And we must support the whole learner through social, emotional and academic development. The ideas presented in this roadmap will lay the groundwork to build a better future for all of our students.” 

“COVID-19 has laid bare this country’s deep fissures and inequities and our children, our educators and our communities have endured an unprecedented year of frustration, pain and loss,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “As vaccine access and effectiveness suggest the end is in sight, it is incumbent on us to not only plan our recovery, but to reimagine public schooling so our children, families and educators can thrive.  

“The crises gripping our country are weighing heavily on young people, who are the future of our communities. That’s why our schools must, at a minimum, be supported and well-resourced to address our students their trauma, social-emotional, developmental and academic needs. This framework is an invaluable tool to help us get there,” Weingarten added. 

Shared with Sec. of Education Cardona last week, Learning Beyond Covid-19, A Vision for Thriving in Public Education offers the organizations’ ideas on ways our education systems can meet students where they are academically, socially, and emotionally.  The framework outlines five priorities that can serve as a guide for nurturing students’ learning now and beyond COVID-19 including learning, enrichment and reconnection for this summer and beyond; diagnosing student well-being and academic success; meeting the needs of our most underserved students; professional excellence for learning and growth; and an education system that centers equity and excellence. 

The full document can be found here

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, has some advice for Mitt Romney: Class size matters!

Romney criticized President Biden’s plan to reduce class sizes. Haimson points out that Utah has the largest class sizes in the nation.

In some Utah schools, in an ordinary year, class sizes can be as large as forty kids per class.

Nor did Romney mention the fact that he attended the elite Cranbrook Academy in Michigan , which has average class sizes of 14 , or that he sent his sons to Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, with average class sizes of 12.

Haimson cites research demonstrating that reducing class size is one of the most effective reforms to help the neediest students.

Noted education scholar Andy Hargreaves questions the alternatives that are likely to follow the end of the pandemic: Will government impose deep cuts and austerity, or will they recognize the importance of funding better education for all students?

He poses the choice in this abstract of his paper:

One looming possibility is an onrush of austerity, deep cuts to public education, financial hardship for the working and middle classes, and a range of private sector, including online answers to public problems in education, leading to more inequity, and an even wider digital divide. The pandemic, it is argued, is already being used as a strategy to bring about educational privatization by stealth by mismanaging return-to-school strategies and by overselling the effectiveness of online and private school alternatives. The alternative is public education investment to pursue prosperity and better quality of life for everyone. This will reduce inequality instead of increasing it, close the digital divide that COVID-19 has exposed, and encourage balanced technology use to enhance good teaching rather than hybrid or blended technology delivery that may increasingly replace such teaching.

Chalkbeat reports that many parents are calling on Mayor DeBlasio to endorse outdoor classes.

A Brooklyn lawmaker has joined the growing chorus of parents and activists calling on the city to close streets around school buildings for use as car-free space for recreation, lunch, small group instruction and other activities.

In just two days, City Council Member Brad Lander received proposals from 14 schools from his district — stretching from Boerum Hill and Park Slope to Sunset Park and Kensington — to use surrounding streets. He called on the Department of Transportation to establish an “Open Streets: Schools” program to help coordinate and oversee a citywide operation.

“Families, teachers, school staff and many others are deeply concerned about the safety of sending students back to indoor school in the fall, about whether their school facilities can be made safe (e.g. what about the schools where windows don’t open),” Lander wrote Thursday to the transportation department.

Lander’s letter is part of the effort to maintain social distance guidelines while providing in-person learning this year. Schools are figuring out how to safely hold socially distant classes for their hybrid of in-person and remote schedules, opting to repurpose cafeterias, auditoriums and even office space as classrooms. The push to look outdoors comes as much of the scientific evidence points to less transmission of the coronavirus outside, and as many families remain concerned about the ventilation inside classrooms despite promises from city officials that HVAC systems and ventilation upgrades are underway. Schools are also grappling with how to figure out how to follow social distancing rules with limited space, which means that most children will attend school next year between one and three days a week.

“This is especially dire for students in our most crowded schools, who may end up with up to 66 percent fewer school days simply by virtue of where they live,” Lander wrote.

The letter suggests that blocks could be closed to traffic during school hours to make room for students. Temporary tents could be set up for shade or rain protection, or in some cases, blocks could be fully closed to allow schools to set up semi-permanent tents and outdoor classroom spaces.

Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer. This article in Foreign Affairs explains why Trump and DeVos’s demand to reopen the schools for full-time, in-person schooling in a few weeks will fail. The schools don’t have the money to meet the necessary safety requirements. The less affluent the community, the less money is available to reduce class sizes and make the schools safe.

The article makes excellent points and contains a useful summary of research. I urge you to read it.

But be warned: it has the worst, most misleading headline I have ever seen in any article. I don’t hold writers responsible for headlines. I wonder whether the person who wrote it read the article.

The schools are neither a moral nor a medical catastrophe. It would have been more accurate to say that the federal government’s treatment of the schools is a moral and medical catastrophe. After all, we have a president who scoffs at science. Who can trust their children’s lives to his uninformed advice? It is obvious that his desire to open the schools is based on his political self-interest, not the lives of children and staff.

Where the pandemic is raging, it is not safe to open schools. Where it appears to have been controlled, the schools must reopen cautiously, with the resources needed to keep people as safe as possible, and with full awareness that there might be a resurgence of the virus.