Archives for category: Principals

This is a wonderful story of a public school whose students succeeded against the odds thanks to a dedicated and creative leader. Will Bill Gates or Laurene Powell Jobs come calling?

Philadelphia School Leader Named NASSP National Principal of the Year

Richard Gordon of Paul Robeson High School for Human Services announced as 2021 honoree during National Principals Month

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Bob Farrace, NASSP, 703-860-7252farraceb@nassp.org

Reston, VA—Richard Gordon, principal of Paul Robeson High School for Human Services in Philadelphia, PA, has been named the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) 2021 National Principal of the Year. The surprise announcement, part of the 2020 celebration of National Principals Month, took place during a virtual meeting of Philadelphia principals earlier today.

Gordon won the award for successfully leading Robeson High School from the brink of closure to what is now considered Philadelphia’s premiere high school.

“Any school turnaround is hard, and it takes a special leader to sustain it,” said NASSP President Robert Motley in his presentation of the award. “But Mr. Gordon led Robeson High School’s turnaround under extraordinary political and social pressures, and at no point did he lose focus on the students. Under Mr. Gordon’s leadership, Robeson High School models what personalization was always meant to be. Personalization begins not at the data or at test targets, but at the person–with all their interests, needs, traumas, and dreams. His leadership makes that happen.”

In 2013 Gordon assumed the reins of Robeson High School, a school in a converted garage in the poverty-stricken area of West Philadelphia that was slated for closure. By 2019, Gordon’s led Robeson off the Pennsylvania High Needs/Academically Low Performing List and onto the list of High Progress Schools with a graduation rate of 95 percent. At the heart of Gordon’s success is the school motto “Build Your Own Brand,” which is realized by his meeting with each of the school’s 315 students to build an educational pathway around their interests. To help students reach their goals, Gordon established countless business, community, and dual-enrollment partnerships specific to student needs. In one illustrative case of a student who dreamed of working on the NASCAR circuit, Gordon leveraged partnerships to secure the student an internship with the nationally renowned all-female Philadelphia mechanic shop Girls Auto Clinic. They plugged him into the NASCAR circuit in the Pocono Mountains, and he drove in his first professional NASCAR-sponsored race this past summer. This case is the norm, as all students are connected to mentors and a business coach to define actionable steps for achieving their desired outcomes.

“Richard doesn’t see obstacles, only opportunities,” commented Kerensa Wing, the 2020 National Principal of the Year who served on the committee that selected Gordon. “His passion for working with kids and helping them succeed is impressive.”

Finding opportunities is a hallmark of Gordon’s leadership. When two Black men were falsely arrested at a West Philadelphia Starbucks in an incident that made national headlines and resulted in a financial settlement with Starbucks and the City of Philadelphia, the men dedicated $200,000 for seed money to launch Project Elevate through their Action Not Words Foundation. Gordon convinced the men and city leaders to select Robeson for the pilot program to equip the most vulnerable Philadelphians with the financial tools, resources, and access needed to break the cycle of generational poverty. Through this partnership, student entrepreneurs are learning how to write and execute business plans to launch businesses in their communities.

Yet, Gordon recognized early that achievement was possible only on a foundation of student safety and wellness. To that end, he created the Safe Corridors Program, a collaboration between Robeson and the University City District (a partnership of the business community, universities, community-based organizations, Philadelphia police, University of Pennsylvania Security Officers, and West Philadelphia residents) to provide extra supervision for students traveling to and from school. Partnerships with mental health therapy programs provide trauma supports for students and build a trauma-informed school environment. Truancy rates have dropped precipitously to near 10% (-22.6%), suspension rates fell below 5%, and bullying has been eliminated, with zero reports in the past 5 years– transforming the school into a safe harbor and making Robeson one of the safest schools in Philadelphia.

Gordon holds a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University, and master’s degrees from both Coppin State University and Lehigh University.

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. said Gordon’s commitment to serving children and families is the driving force behind his success at Robeson.

“From the moment he arrived at the District, Principal Gordon’s enthusiasm for creating a positive learning and instructional environment has yielded wonderful results,” Hite said. “We are thrilled to see him receive this recognition and look forward to even greater success for his students and the entire school community.”

“The PA Principals Association is proud that one of our very own school leaders has been named NASSP’s Principal of the Year,” said Paul Healey, the groups’s executive director, who identified Gordon as the 2020 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year. “Richard Gordon exemplifies the qualities of an effective principal and demonstrates his leadership skills, passion, dedication, and an outstanding commitment to his students and school community on a daily basis.  We are proud of his accomplishments and join in the well deserved congratulations from across PA and the nation.”

The NASSP Principal of the Year (POY) program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession. Each year, NASSP honors State Principals of the Year from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity. Out of these exceptional school leaders, three are selected as finalists and one is ultimately selected for the National Principal of the Year award. The 2021 finalists include Adam Clemons of Piedmont High School in Piedmont, AL; and Michelle Kefford, formerly of Charles Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, FL, now principal of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

Gordon is one of only three principals from Pennsylvania ever to receive this national distinction, along with Kevin McHugh of the Pennsbury School District in 2002 and Michael Pladus of the Interboro School District in 1999.

For more information on the POY program, please visit www.nassp.org/poy.

About NASSP

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor SocietyNational Junior Honor SocietyNational Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.

New York City’s CSA (Council of Supervisors and Administrators) passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for their poor leadership during the public health crisis and asked the state to intervene to help the public schools reopen safely.

CSA represents the city’s public school principals.

Spokespersons for principals, teachers, and nurses have called on Mayor De Blasio to delay reopening and provide more time to prepare schools, reports Gotham Gazette, a publication of the Citizens Union Foundation.

The principals union, the teachers union, and the nurses union have come out against the ​city’s plan to reopen classrooms on September 10 with a mix of remote and in-person learning.

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators urged the officials to move the start of in-person school to the end of September to give schools more time to prepare, while offering fully remote learning as they do.

​”​Given the lack of information and guidance available at this time, CSA believes that NYCDOE’s decision to open for in-person learning on September 10th is in disregard of the well-being of our school communities​,” wrote CSA President Mark Cannizzaro.

The union is seeking more clarity on essential questions around sufficient staffing, hiring of nurses, PPE supplies, and support for students with special needs, among others. With individual school plans due to city officials Friday, if approved administrators and teachers will have fewer than 15 “working days” to implement them before students arrive, Cannizzaro wrote.

Carol Burris conducted a survey of teachers, parents, and principals on behalf of the Network for Public Education to learn about how this extended period of emergency remote learning is affecting them. The summary is reported in this article posted on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

This period of emergency remote learning is taking an emotional toll on many.

Burris writes:

When I asked Bronx high school Principal Jeff Palladino to describe his day recently, he replied: “That is hard to do. I don’t know when it begins and when it ends.”


He starts his day, he said, by checking into Google Classroom to see if students turned in their work. “Many of our students live in crowded apartments with family members that are ill, so the only time it’s quiet enough for them to do their work is at night,” he said.


Jeff Palladino is the principal of Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, located in the most impoverished congressional district in the United States. Sixty percent of Fannie Lou Hamer students are Latino, and 39 percent are black. Their parents are either workers declared essential or suffering from the worry of being laid off.
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The Bronx community that the high school serves has been devastated by covid-19. “Since this began, our students are losing family members,” he said. “We lose two or three each week. We have lost an alumna. One of our students passed away, although we are not certain if the cause was covid-19. It is so hard because you cannot physically be there for them.” Palladino told me about a student whom they could not contact for two weeks. Both parents had the virus, and she was caring not only for them but for the rest of the family as well. Everyone was relieved when they got the message that she was okay and catching up on her work.


In a New York suburb in hard-hit Nassau County, South Side High School Principal John Murphy begins his workday at 7 a.m.


“The first thing we do is check-in with our at-risk kids — kids with emotional issues, health issues, kids who were at-risk before covid-19,” he said. “We call and make sure they are okay.”

His school has lost four parents to the disease to date. One teacher, who since has recovered, was hospitalized and on a ventilator.
School counselors follow up with students who are struggling, speaking with parents as well as kids.

Then Murphy moves on to supervising instruction by dropping in on online classes, with parent and teacher concerns, trouble-shooting software issues, and attending district meetings. Work moves into night and weekends, as crises pop up.
Murphy has high-praise for his teachers, who themselves are struggling to do the best they can. “Teachers and students miss each other desperately,” he said.


Meanwhile, Arthur Goldstein teaches his Francis Lewis High School students from his home on Long Island. His students are all beginning English Language learners. Some hide behind avatars in his virtual classroom. He worries about what is happening in their homes, which are often tiny apartments in Queens, New York, where covid-19 has taken a staggering toll.




In the Midwest, Fort Wayne elementary school teacher Eileen Doherty struggles to teach her inner-city students. She is dismayed by the differences between what her own children who attend a suburban school have when compared with those she teaches.

One mom explained to her why schoolwork was not her first priority: “I am just trying to feed my children.”

Between April 8 to April 13, 2020, the Network for Public Education surveyed teachers and educators across the United States to find out how they were responding to and coping with the emergency closing of school buildings due to covid-19. The survey was distributed to our mailing list of 350,000, shared online via social media, and then subsequently shared by teacher, administrator, and family groups.


Here’s who responded: 7,249 public school teachers, 5,536 public school parents, and 354 public school administrators responded.


About half of the educator respondents reported that their own children are remotely learning, therefore it is possible that approximately half of the parent respondents are educators themselves.

Responses came from every state.
In the educator surveys, urban, suburban, small city and rural districts were represented in proportions similar to the United States at large.

Suburban parents were over-represented in the parent survey; however, 33 percent of respondents lived in urban centers or small cities. A majority of teachers (56 percent) taught in schools in which over half of the students received free or reduced-price lunch. Thirty percent taught in schools where the proportion of low socio-economic status students exceeded 80 percent.


In addition to the surveys, we conducted nine in-depth interviews with educators and parents from around the country to gain insights into emergency remote learning during the covid-19 pandemic.

What follows is an account of what we found. You can find all three surveys and their results here.


A tough adjustment 


Only 19 percent of teachers reported having completely adjusted; over 50 percent said their adjustment was difficult, and nearly 31 percent were, at the time of their response to the survey, still struggling to adjust. While 41 percent of parents reported that their child had adjusted and was able to complete assignments, 22 percent reported that their child was still struggling to adjust.


Emily Sawyer is the mother of five in Austin, Texas. Each of her children has reacted differently; each has his or her own adjustment challenges. Ironically, the child she worries about the most is her son who has transitioned the best. “He is the one who needs the most socialization that physical school attendance provides.” She worries about his transition back to his brick and mortar school.


The difficulty of managing multiple children in a remote learning environment was echoed by Khanh-Lien Banko, who has four children in public schools in Alachua County, Florida. Both she and her husband are juggling to keep their children on task, while working remotely from home.
“We all have our devices in our home; however, it is still very, very difficult. Distance learning for middle-schoolers is probably the worst possible choice,” she said with a laugh.


The emotional toll 


Over 80 percent of parents reported that their child misses his/her classmates, and over 60 percent reported they miss their teacher. Fifty-eight percent of parents told us their child misses sports and extracurricular activities, and 39 percent said he or she regularly expresses feelings of loneliness. Almost 10 percent — 9.5 percent — said their child prefers remote learning to classroom learning. Reactions were generally consistent across grade levels.




Teachers and administrators were asked to select adjectives that described how they were feeling regarding distance instruction. Both administrators (43 percent) and teachers (57 percent) most frequently chose “overwhelmed.” Large shares of both groups also chose “anxious” and “struggling.”
While 37.5 percent of administrators felt supported, only 29 percent of teachers chose that adjective as a descriptor. Eight percent of teachers and 11 percent of administrators were “enthusiastic” about distance learning.
For some children, attending school at home, coupled with the uncertainty about when they will return, has been traumatic.

Khanh-Lien Banko’s youngest son “somehow got it in his head that he was going back in two weeks.”
”When he found out he was not, he was heartbroken., she said. “All of our children are grieving and miss going to school.”


New York City teacher Gary Rubinstein told me his son “has wonderful teachers who create a social, highly interactive classroom in which he thrives.” Absent the support provided by teachers and friends, his young son is struggling both academically and emotionally.


Superintendent Joe Roy of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said he is proud of his teachers who are providing instruction; still, remote learning cannot begin to replace all of the socio-emotional benefits that learning with others offers.


He is acutely aware of the stress his families are going through as well. One father, a truck driver whose wife is a nurse, called to talk about how overwhelming it is as his family tries to balance work, health, and his children’s schoolwork. Roy’s message to his community is simple and straightforward: “Compassion before curriculum; grace before grades.” Roy uses self-produced videos to reassure his community, provide emotional support, and keep them informed.


Face-to-face contact, virtually


Sixty-four percent of teachers told us that they video-conference with their students at least once a week — 38 percent conference with students several times a week.

Conferencing rates were relatively stable across school type with one exception—rural teachers were less likely to video conference (60 percent) than colleagues in city and suburban centers.




Although everyone we interviewed highly valued visual contact via technology, there were concerns regarding privacy issues, especially in the context of streamed classroom instruction.


“Kids are used to saying whatever they want, whenever they want on social media, and there is a fear, especially among students who have been bullied, that harassment will take place in online classrooms — including harassment that can be recorded and then shared,” said Principal Murphy.
Incidences of classrooms being “crashed” by non-students, other family members being seen on camera, and even an instance when a parent recorded and critiqued a lesson, have been posted on administrator email lists, giving schools pause when it comes to the use of live, online lessons.


Online live classroom management can also be more difficult. Goldstein, the teacher on Long Island, lamented that he could not control student behavior online the way he can in his classroom, in which he can cajole reluctant learners to participate.
“When they hide behind avatars it is difficult to see if they are engaged or lying in bed during class,” he said. “But I have to respect their privacy, so I feel I have no right to tell them to come out from behind the avatar.”


Dual roles for teachers


Rubinstein teaches mathematics at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School. At the same time, he is taking care of two school-age children, one of whom has a learning disability.
Being isolated has taken a toll on his son, and hours of effort are required to help him do his work. He walked me through his exhausting daily schedule, explaining how he divides his time supporting his children and teaching his students. Rubinstein said he carefully crafts videos that students can watch on demand, posts assignments, and teaches a live class every day.




According to our survey, 76 percent of teachers work a minimum of five hours a day, with 20 percent logging in more than nine hours a day. Eighty-eight percent of administrators were working five or more hours a day, with more than 32 percent exceeding a nine-hour work day.

Half of all teacher and administrator respondents have school-age children at home.


The tools and online platforms that teachers and schools are using vary. Seventy-two percent of all teachers email students. Sixty-four percent use Google Classroom, and 32 percent use Google Meet to create classroom groups. Zoom, which has been hit with privacy and intrusion concerns, is also a frequently used platform for conferencing and instruction (40 percent).


Whatever the platform, the delivery of instruction is challenging, educators say.


Murphy of South Side High School quickly learned that trying to keep up the pace of the in-school curriculum is an impossibility. “Learning a topic takes twice as long online.”
Teachers and students were burning out. “I finally had to tell them to slow down,” he said.
Not only were his teachers and students overloading, so were the online platforms they were using. “Once schools on the West Coast came online, everything would slow to a crawl. Students became frustrated as they futilely attempted to submit their work,” he said.


Because Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School is a performance-based assessment school, free from the regulations that demand adherence to the New York State Regents curriculum, the transition to remote instruction has been easier.




“Project-based learning is the centerpiece of our instruction,” Palladino said. “A test is not our endpoint, so our work in many ways has not changed. Teachers do not have to redo the curriculum.”
The school will have its cumulative portfolio conferences virtually.

“Our teachers have been able to do office hours, small group conferencing, and one-on-one conferencing to support student work. It is a good match for what we do.”
Still, Palladino said, online learning is not optimal or a long-term strategy for the school. “What keeps remote learning going for us are the relationships we built before the building closed,” he said.


Fannie Lou Hamer is a full-service community school, with an 11-year relationship with The Children’s Aid Society.

Relationships with community organizations that continue to support students, as well as strong advisory groups, have helped keep afloat instruction in a community devastated by covid-19.
Palladino said he also worries that his staff is overly concerned about students falling behind. “My teachers are entirely too hard on themselves. I have to tell them not to worry,” he said. ” We will figure all of this out.”


Connectivity and instruction


One of the greatest challenges for schools in implementing distance learning is providing access to both devices and connectivity.

According to our survey, only 35 percent of administrators believe that all of their students have their own laptop or a tablet. Sixty-four percent of administrators reported some device distribution to fill the technology gap. Sixteen percent indicated that they had distributed laptops or tablets to all students before the covid-19 crisis began.




Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School modified and distributed 300 Chromebooks from their school supply. When 30 students were unable to pick them up, Palladino drove into the Bronx and distributed the laptops from his car window, he said. The school also distributed hot spots.
“Without connectivity, the laptop is just a paperweight,” he said.


Students in Grades 8-12 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had Chromebooks, but students in Grades K-7 did not. Roy loaned school-based laptops to families, with priority going to those who have no laptops at all.


In the Duarte Unified School District in California, where 78 percent of all students receive free or reduced-price lunch, middle and high school students already had a school-issued laptop, but elementary students did not.
Heather Messner, teacher and union president, said school-based laptops are being given out, and “hot-spots” are distributed to families without internet services. In addition, Duarte teachers create paper learning packets, which school principals copy and distribute at both food-distribution centers and schools, trying to leave no child without instruction.


In some places, devices and connectivity shortages are particularly severe.


Fort Wayne, Indiana teacher Eileen Doherty told us, “Some of my students wait for their mother to come home so that they can access her phone to do the work. About 20 percent of my students come to my class on Zoom each day, and it is not even the same 20 percent.”

Getting laptops to seniors who need them for credit recovery for graduation has been the first priority in Fort Wayne, she said.


Schools as centers of community


Nearly 95 percent of all school administrators reported that their school(s) were engaging in the distribution of food.


Roy runs eight support sites in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — seven from his schools, and one in a low-income housing center. The sites distribute food at the rate of 3,000 meals a day to the families of public, charter, and parochial school students.




According to Florida parent and PTA advocate, Khanh-Lien Banko, the district’s food service is providing 20,000 meals a day at 76 locations.

Fannie Lou Hamer distributes “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches to any community member who walks through the door.


But schools are doing far more than just distributing food to the public. They are providing emotional support services as well as making connections between families and social services.
There is a worry about families who have slipped through the cracks.

Banko, who is a leader of the PTA in Florida and running for the school board in Alachua County, told us that despite outreach emails and phone calls, it has not been possible to contact every family. “School faculty and staff are now going door to door to check on kids and families in accordance with safety guidelines,” she said.


The first priority


Fifty-five percent of teachers and 59 percent of administrators believed that students are likely to fall academically behind. Parents are more optimistic — only 27 percent thought their child would lag academically, likely a reflection of the large share of teacher-parents who took the survey. Large proportions of all three surveyed groups believed that they could not come to a judgment regarding student progress at this time (34 percent of teachers, 30 of administrators of administrators, 29 percent of parents.)


In every interview, student academic performance came second to worry about the physical and emotional health of children.


Rubinstein said he worried about the health and safety of his predominantly Asian-American students, many of whom live in small, multi-generational apartments in Queens County of New York City. Not only are they living in one of the hardest-hit places in America, he told me, but they are also dealing with bias stemming from the origins of the disease.




Texas parent Emily Sawyer said she worried the most for the black and brown children of Austin, who had fewer resources and support than her five children. And the inability to physically see and support every child through the pandemic weighed deeply on everyone’s mind.


In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative non-profit think-tank, suggested that one solution to academic loss was to have large shares of students, especially those in Title I Schools, repeat their present grade. I asked interviewees what they thought of that idea.
All strongly disagreed, saying it was an ineffective and punitive measure.

Goldstein, on Long Island, said, “That is heartless and cruel to punish kids for something they can’t control. We are through 70 percent of the school year … That is saying to kids. ‘You came for nothing.’”
Goldstein and a team of teachers from his school proposed a grading policy for students that would “do no harm,” with teachers not assigning grades lower than the grade the student had achieved when the school building closed.


In states further south and west of the New York metropolitan area, schools were even closer to the end of the year. Fort Wayne teacher Doherty noted that most of April would have been devoted to prepping for and taking state-wide tests, with schools then closing in May.


Banko told us there was one upside to remote learning. Since state tests were canceled, the assignments students were being given were far more interesting than the usual spring test prep. “I am seeing more creativity and collaboration than I have seen in years,” she said.

Peter Greene writes here about the forgotten role of the principal and superintendent. It is not to promote misguided and harmful policies such as those that were central to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, but to fight against them and to protect their staff as best they can against misguided mandates. For most of the past two decades, however, the folks at the top blew with the wind and went along with what they surely knew were very bad ideas.

He writes:

A manager’s job– and not just the management of a school, but any manager– is to create the system, environment and supports that get his people to do their very best work. When it rains, it’s the manager’s job to hold an umbrella over his people. When the wind starts blowing tree limbs across the landscape, it’s the manager’s job to stand before the storm and bat the debris away. And when the Folks at the Top start sending down stupid directives, it’s a manager’s job to protect his people the best he possibly can.

NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core, the high stakes Big Standardized Tests– each of these bad policies is bad for many reason, but the biggest one is this: instead of helping teachers do their jobs, these policies interfere with teachers doing their jobs, even mandate doing their jobs badly. In each case a bunch of educational amateurs pushed their way into schools and said, “You’re doing it all wrong from now on, you have to do it like this,” like medically untrained non-doctors barging into a surgical procedure to say, “Stop using that sterile scalpel and use this rusty shovel instead.”

That was bad. But it is base betrayal when, in that situation, management turns to its trained, professional workers and says, “Well, you heard the man. Pick up that rusty shovel.”

John Ogozalek teaches in rural upstate New York.

He writes:

Let’s hope we dodge this bullet as a nation.

But it sounds like the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to go sideways.

What if schools close for weeks -if not months?

What will teachers do during this time off? (Assuming we’re not taking care of family in our own homes.)

And, let’s face it, the idea of teaching online just isn’t going to last long if at all for many K-12 schools. Seriously.

Here’s the thing…

Teachers represent an already organized, very locally based force -across the entire nation.

Instead of waiting for the federal government’s response to get organized (which under Trump’s leadership seems like a disaster in the making as valuable time slips by) perhaps our unions and school districts can get moving on this challenge right now.

Hopefully, we won’t be needed. But why not get ready to help?

I do not want to sit around my house if school is closed.

Could I volunteer with a local doctor? Check on shut ins?

At the minimum, schools can have meetings right now to make sure teachers and staff have accurate contact information including alternate means to communicate in case the internet is stressed. What happens to families who are lacking child care? And, those kids who rely on school lunch?

We can start to organize and at least offer our volunteer assistance to the government. A sort of “Teacher Force” at the ready for those of us who can lend a hand.

By moving forward without fear and working together maybe we can create a model for other groups? And, most importantly, offer some help to the children in our communities.

You have contact with people in charge of things in this country, especially union leaders.

I think this idea might get off the ground pretty quickly if an organization like NYSUT, for example, gets local presidents on it. Of course, we’d include administrators and anyone else in the school who wants to pitch in. We’d need a thoughtful template to respond effectively…a plan informed by public health experts. A package of possible options that local schools can consider and perhaps choose from.

Just an idea, Diane. Maybe the higher ups somewhere are already thinking in this direction?

If not, maybe we should….

 

In this post, Mercedes Schneider does her trademark “deep dig” into the career of one Jon Schnur. It turns out that he is the quintessential corporate reform careerist.

If you have ever wondered why some people make tons of money in education without ever teaching, study Schnur’s opportunistic and profitable career.

He did it all while working for Clinton, Gore, and Obama, demonstrating the profitable career one can forge with Big Ideas, all the while helping blur and dissolve partisan lines, helping the Democrats lose their identity as champions of public education.

His first big idea was a program that enabled rank amateurs to become principals, although he had never been one himself. His work aligned with that of his Princeton classmate, Wendy Kopp. Both made money by tearing apart the education profession and opening it to amateurs.

 

John Rogers and his research team at UCLA have completed a valuable study of the effect of Trump and his ideology on schools, students, and society. 

If you go to the link, you can open the report.

Here is a summary:

“This study examines how a broad set of social issues at the forefront of the Trump presidency are felt and affect students and educators within America’s high schools.  We look closely at:

  1. Political division and hostility;
  2. Disputes over truth, facts, and the reliability of sources;
  3. Opioid misuse and addiction;
  4. The threat of immigration enforcement;
  5. The threats of gun violence on school campuses.

“In addition to assessing the impact of these challenges on students’ learning and wellbeing, we also report on how high school principals throughout the U.S. are addressing these issues.  Further, we measure how the impact and responses differ across schools depending on student demographics, geographic location, or partisan orientation of the surrounding community.

“The study findings are based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2018 by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy Education and Access (IDEA) of 505 high school principals whose schools provide a representative sample of all U.S. public high schools. UCLA IDEA also conducted 40 follow-up interviews with principals who participated in the survey selected to be representative of the larger pool of schools.

“Our findings make clear that in the age of Trump, America’s high schools are greatly impacted by rising political incivility and division.

  • Eighty-nine percent of principals report that incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.
  • Eighty-three percent of schools see these tensions intensified and accelerated by the flow of untrustworthy or disputed information and the increasing use of social media that is fueling and furthering division among students and between schools and the communities.
  • Sixty-two percent of schools have been harmed by opioid abuse.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the principals surveyed say federal immigration enforcement policies and the political rhetoric around the issue have negatively impacted students and their families.
  • Ninety-two percent of principals say their school has faced problems related to the threat of gun violence

“In the face of these societal challenges, it is students themselves who bear the brunt of the impact.  Many students feel greater anxiety, stress, and vulnerability, and parental opioid misuse and aggressive immigration enforcement have both resulted in greater material deprivation for young people—unstable housing, insecure food supplies, and a lack of other necessary supports.

“School principals are also impacted. The average principal in the study reports spending six and a half hours a week addressing the five societal challenges. One in four principals spend the equivalent of one workday a week responding to the challenges.  That time represents lost opportunity costs, taking time away from efforts to meet students’ academic needs and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

“The report closes with a call for relationship-centered schools that attend to the holistic needs of young people and their families, while building social trust and understanding.  We recommend:

  1. Establish and communicate school climate standards emphasizing care, connectedness, and civility and then create practices that enable educational systems to document and report on conditions associated with these standards.
  2. Build professional capacity within educational systems to address the holistic needs of students and communities and extend this capacity by supporting connections between school-based educators and other governmental agencies and community-based organizations serving young people and their families
  3. Develop integrated systems of health, mental health, and social welfare support for students and their families.
  4. Create and support networks of educators committed to fostering care, connectedness, and strong civility in their public education systems.”

 

 

Valerie Jablow, D.C. parent, blogger, and activist, read two reports on teacher and principal attrition and retention. One of them was prepared by the highly respected D.C. civil rights attorney Mary Levy, who has been tracking data in D.C. for many years. Levy looked at both public schools and charter schools.

One conclusion: staff turnover is startlingly high, especially in schools with the most disadvantaged students.

Overall, our public school teacher turnover rates dwarf national averages and have socioeconomic implications, such that the more at risk students a school has, the higher its teacher turnover. The data examined by Levy from the last 3 years alone show that fully a quarter of our public school teachers leave each year—a much higher rate than other jurisdictions. The result is that over half a decade, most of our publicly funded schools will see the majority of their teachers leave.

Our DC public school principal turnover is high as well, averaging about 25% annually. Although that is closer to the national average for principal turnover, in DC it is (like teacher turnover) also correlated with socioeconomics, such that schools with the most at risk students often have the most principal turnover.

Levy had to hand-calculate some of the data because data-collection is slipshod:

For one, we have this data on teacher turnover in DCPS only because Levy herself has spent years comparing staff rosters for individual DCPS schools and budgets and reported what she found. Consider, for a moment, the painful irony of Levy being commissioned to do a report on teacher attrition in DCPS through a painstaking process of backing out data that the school system may already have in a better format–and, for all any of us knows, could provide in a much easier way.

For another, the charter school data on teacher turnover is suspect, as Levy discovered that a number of charter schools appeared to have confused teacher attrition with retention in their required annual reports.

Thus, whenever the reported teacher attrition rate in a charter school was higher than 50%, Levy painstakingly compared staff rosters from one year to the next in the same school. Roster comparisons were, however, inexact because different schools defined “teacher” in different ways, and the rosters themselves changed in form and format from year to year. (Not to mention that the attrition/retention confusion happened within LEAs–so each school had to be looked at separately.) Nonetheless, Levy recorded how many teachers appeared to stay and leave each year; used that to determine whether the reported high rate of attrition above 50% was accurate; and, if it was not accurate, flipped the percentage.

Imagine that! The schools reporting data often didn’t know the difference between retention and attrition! Are any of the data credible when the people responsible for reporting don’t inow the meaning of basic terminology?

D.C. public schools have been controlled by the mayor and by “reformers” including Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson (now looking for a new chancellor since Antwan Wilson left) since 2007, and there in no accurate data collection and analysis program.

Foundations including Gates, Walton, and Broad have poured tens of millions into DCPS, and there is no accurate collection and analysis program.

Whenever D.C. makes a claim about graduation rates, test scores, teacher and principal attrition and retention, they are probably just guessing. Or boasting. They really don’t know.

If you want to learn more, you can attend this meeting:

This Wednesday November 28, from 6 pm-8 pm, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) and teacher advocacy group EmpowerEd will hold a joint forum on staff retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. The forum will be held at Walker-Jones Education Campus, 1125 New Jersey Ave. NW. RSVP here.

The principal of Sacramento Charter High School resigned in protest, siding with the students who were demonstrating against teacher turnover, a change in the dress code, and other arbitrary rules.

The school is part of the St. Hope Charter Chain, founded by former Sacramento Mayor (and basketball star) Kevin Johnson, and managed by him and his wife Michelle Rhee.

“Sacramento Charter High School’s top administrator has resigned just days after students left classes in protest and she blasted St. Hope administrators for what she said was the school’s “sustained history of neglect from above” and their “reactionary finger-pointing” in their handling of the student walkout.

“Christina Smith in a strongly worded one-page letter dated Monday and obtained Wednesday by The Sacramento Bee, threw her support behind the students, saying the demonstrations and the blame laid at Smith’s feet in its wake by leaders of St. Hope Public Schools, which runs the charter high school, were among the tipping points that led to her resignation as the school’s site lead…

“Some 100 students staged four days of walkouts frustrated that student-led changes to the campus’ handbook approved at the end of the 2017-2018 school year were set aside by St. Hope officials and that students were ordered by the officials to wear costly school-mandated uniforms.

“We feel like we’re being stripped of our voices,” said senior Keishay Swygert during Friday’s demonstration, part of four days of protest against St. Hope administrators. “We want our school back.”

“Other students on Wednesday bemoaned a high teacher turnover rate, a lack of textbooks, arbitrary rule-making by school leaders and an environment that does not properly prepare its students for college.”

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article218292925.html#storylink=cpy