Archives for category: Principals

Greg Windle, a journalist at The Notebook, has drawn together the many strands of the tangled web of Reformer groups in Philadelphia, as seen through the lens of a contract awarded to The New Teacher Project for principal training. TNTP, Michelle Rhee’s creation, was designed to hire new teachers. When did it develop an expertise in training principals? Were there no veteran educators, no one in the Philadelphia School System, capable of training new principals? Or were they recruiting principals who had been a teacher for a year or two?

As Windle gets deeper into the story of a contract dispute about hiring TNTP to train principals, a familiar cast of money-hungry Reform groups washes up on the beach.

“Marjorie Neff, a former School Reform Commission chair who voted against the TNTP contract to recruit and screen teachers, said that in her experience such national education vendors use an approach that is “formulaic” and doesn’t tailor well to the needs of an individual teacher or the “context” of teaching in Philadelphia, where a teacher’s needs are different than in the suburbs. Neff is a former principal at Samuel Powel Elementary and J.R. Masterman who earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University.

“They’re selling a product. From that perspective, their formula is their vested interest,” Neff said. “Their bottom line is profitability, and we need to take that into account. Is it the most effective way to do this, or is it the most profitable? I don’t think those necessarily have to be in conflict, but sometimes they are.”

“In 2017, TNTP reported that its expenses were $20 million higher than revenue. In 2016, its revenue was nearly $21 million higher than expenses, but this was entirely due to the $41 million it brought in from “all other contributions, gifts, grants” (excluding government grants). That pot includes grants from outside philanthropies, such as foundations, but also investments from venture capital firms. In 2015, the nonprofit lost $6.1 million, despite millions in outside funding.

“Shifting funding, but consistent ideology

“Bain Capital’s consulting firm has two members on the board of TNTP. Since 2009, Bain’s consulting arm has partnered with Teach for America to develop “high-impact leaders in education” by placing TFA alumni in “leadership” positions in public education. Together, TFA and Bain designed “a series of programs to inspire, prepare, match and support Teach for America alums on the path to leadership.” Bain aimed to bring leadership development practices from the private sector into public education.

“In 2012, the two organizations got together to “expand the scope of work” of their partnership — the same year that Teach for America founded School Systems Leaders to train TFA alumni to “serve at the highest levels of leadership in public school systems.”

“Matt Glickman, an employee of the Bain consulting firm and board member of TNTP, has also served on the board of the NewSchools Venture Fund. That fund has invested in free-market education reforms since 1998. The Sackler family – whose fortune is based on profits from Purdue Pharma, developer of OxyContin – decided to invest heavily in the fund.”

When will education be returned to educators?

Anyone advocating for edupreneurs should be fired. As Neff said quite well, these national vendors are in it for the money.

 

Mercedes Schneider did some research and discovered that a very large proportion of the “deans” at the Relay “Graduate Schools of Education” got their start in Teach for America.

https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/relay-graduate-school-of-educations-overwhelmingly-tfa-derived-deans/

This makes sense. TFA bypasses traditional professional education and places ill-prepared “teachers” in urban and rural classrooms with only five weeks of training. Who would go to a doctor who never went to medical school but had five weeks of training? Who would go to a “lawyer” who skipped law school and read law books for five weeks?

Relay is the right place for “deans” with no real education background. These faux “graduate schools” have none of the authentic markers of a genuine graduate school of education. Few, if any, of their faculty have doctorates. They have no programs in the foundations of education, in cognitive development, in learning the skills need to be a teacher of children with disabilities or a teacher of English language learners. Libraries? I don’t think so.

Relay grew out of a program created at Hunter College called TeacherU, whose purpose was to prepare young people to teach in charter schools. It was sponsored by three no-excuses charter chains: KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools. What matters most to the no-excuses charters are strict discipline and test scores. Who needs research? Who needs scholarship? Who needs experts in school finance or history or psychology? Not Relay.

Like the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, Relay is a means of bypassing professional education while mimicking it.

The Atlanta Board of Education just awarded a $600,000 sole source contract to Relay to prepare leaders.

Schneider reviews the background of the 15 Relay “deans” and concludes:

There you have it: 15 “deans”; no Ph.D.s (but one almost); no bachelors degrees in education; no refereed publications, and not a one “dean” qualified for a tenure-track position in a legitimate college of education. But who needs legitimacy when you can franchise yourself into a deanship?

What a farce.

P.S. Mercedes Schneider has an earned Ph.D. in research methodology and statistics. She chose to teach high school students in Louisiana. She knows what a legitimate graduate school of education is.

I call a moratorium on bashing our students and our teachers. If I could manage it, I would make that moratorium a permanent ban.

If you have been watching the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on television, you have seen young people who are smart, eloquent, well-informed, and reasonable. They are so much smarter than so many of our elected officials. The elected officials who dare to debate them are quickly shown to be empty suits.

These students are the best in the world. They survived a horrific attack on their school, stepped over the bodies of their friends and teachers, and emerged to tell the world that this American carnage (as Trump put it in his inaugural address) must stop. Now. No more school shootings. They are old enough to vote; the others will be voters by 2020. They are angry and they are focused, and they know what the problem is: guns. Too many guns. Easy access to guns. NRA money buying politicians.

They will not be bought off by empty promises to increase background checks. To extend the waiting period for an assault weapon. To raise the eligibile age to 21 for buying a weapon of mass murder. They know that mass murderers can pass background checks, can wait three days, and may be older than 21, like the killers in Orlando and Las Vegas. They want a ban on selling military weapons to civilians. They want a ban on sales of military weapons at gun shows and online. They will not be hoaxed. They call BS on phonies.

As we saw in the Sandy Hook massacre, the teachers and principal of these students defended them with their own bodies. They took the bullets to shield their students. They didn’t sign up to be targets for a homicidal maniac, but when the time of reckoning came, they gave their lives to save their students.

Meanwhile, “the good guys with guns” heard the shooting but stayed out of the building. The deputy assigned to protect the students has resigned, and two other officers are being investigated.

Would you have the courage that these teachers and principal had? Would you lay down your life to save that of others?

Would you have the courage and eloquence of the students who left the funerals and memorials for their friends and teachers to fight for a better world?

Revolutions are made by the young, not by tired middle-aged, comfortable folk.

These young people are amazing and admirable.

Their teachers are heroes.

The kids praised their teachers. They know who is on their side.

I praise them all.

I stand with the students, the teachers, and the other educators who fight for children every day.

 

 

This video is a vivid demonstration of the public school as the heart and anchor of the community.

Mickey Reynolds, principal of Lake Mary High School in Seminole County, Florida, surprised everyone by joining the school’s step dancing team and putting in a very creditable performance. The students in the stands and on the floor of the school gym roared with delight as Ms. Reynolds kept up with her students. She is a trouper!

Lake Mary High School is no fly-by-night. It has been at the center of its community since 1981-82. Take a look at its comprehensive program.

This is public education.

This is a School for all the people’s children.

Betsy DeVos. You lose.

Try step dancing with students.

My money is on Ms. Reynolds.

Ms. Reynolds, thanks for reminding us that the experience of school is about fun and games as well as academics.

For your courage and good humor in daring to step dance with those beautiful students, I name you to the honor roll of this Blog!

This is a heartening story about the schools in Wine Country in California, which just suffered through horrifying fires.

Educators who lost their own homes were back on the job, to make sure the children had a safe space.

http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Wine-Country-fires-Educators-some-of-whom-lost-12282966.php

This is what educators do.

“Principal Teresa Ruffoni greeted students at Crane Elementary School in Rohnert Park on Monday morning, their first day back in class after a series of deadly fires burned through thousands of homes in neighboring Santa Rosa and in other cities and towns across the region.

“What Ruffoni didn’t tell the children was that a week earlier she had grabbed a few of her most vital belongings and fled from flames that would soon consume her home in Hidden Valley Estates, a hard-hit subdivision in the hills of northern Santa Rosa.

“She was too focused on the students, and navigating an extraordinary period for education in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties…

“Amid the chaos and uncertainty, district administrators and teachers have been scrambling to get schools back open, knowing it was a critical step to bring a sense of security and normalcy to children traumatized by the destruction.

“That’s why on Friday, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified Superintendent Robert Haley gathered the entire district staff in a school gym.

“Do you want to try and reopen Monday?” he asked.

“The answer, he said, was a solid yes.

“I looked up, and front and center was a teacher with a smile on her face,” he said. “Her house burned down, but she was ready to help her colleagues get kids back in school.”

“Ruffoni, despite possessing only a hodgepodge of mismatched clothes grabbed in the dark of night, was ready to go, too.

“It felt like the right thing to do, Haley said, to help the whole county move forward.

“For many of our students, the place they feel safest other than at home is school,” Haley said. “The adults they trust more than anyone other than their parents are their teachers. That’s why we’re here today.”

The North Carolina legislature will go down in history as the most anti-education lawmakers in the history of the state. I would say the nation, but Wisconsin’s hostility to educators is tough to beat.

The legislature enacted a principal pay plan that cuts principal pay and drives out veteran principal. In North Carolina, this is called “reform.”

Education journalist Lindsay Wagner write about it here:

“State Board of Education members expressed shock this week upon learning just how seriously the General Assembly’s newly enacted principal pay plan could hurt school leaders, particularly those who have devoted decades of service to the state’s public schools.

“I don’t think it was anybody’s intent for principals to lose pay as a result of [this plan],” said the State Board of Education’s vice chairman A.L. “Buddy” Collins. “I have three different principals who are very veteran principals with over 30 years who believe they are being adversely affected to the point that they may need to retire—which is certainly not what we want.”

“North Carolina’s principals, whose salaries ranked 50th in the nation in 2016, watched this year as lawmakers changed how they are compensated, moving away from a salary schedule based on years of service and earned credentials to a so-called performance-based plan that relies on students’ growth measures (calculated off standardized test scores) and the size of the school to calculate pay.

“But the plan’s design has produced scenarios that result in some veteran principals conceivably earning as much as 30 percent less than what they earned on the old pay schedules—prompting some to consider early retirements.

“I just want to point out this one principal who wrote to me,” said vice chair Collins. “He’s got 35 years of experience, 58 years old…and he’s expecting to have his salary reduced by 30 percent next year. And I’ve got two others with greater [amounts] of experience with a similar result.”

State board members wondered who came up with this nutty idea.

“The new plan appears to create a disincentive for school leaders to take on the challenge of heading up low-performing schools, said Amanda Bell, a Rockingham school board member and advisor to the State Board.

“It is going to be almost impossible for us to find principals who would even want to take on that challenge,” said Bell. “Because eventually they’re gonna lose salary, based on this model.”

The New York City Department of Education announced that it was closing down the “Aspiring Principals” program, which was the linchpin of the NYC Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy was launched by Joel Klein as a bold effort to attract business leaders, young teachers, and out-of-town principals who wanted a fast track to be a principal in New York City.

The first chairman of its board was Jack Welch of General Electric, who believed in grading all employees every year and firing the bottom 10%. The first CEO of the Academy was Robert Knowling Jr., a tech executive from Denver whose company had just collapsed. He brought a staff of more than 20 people with him to New York, including his personal coach.

Bloomberg raised $75 million for its first three years of operations. After that, the Department had a “competition” and awarded $50 million to the Leadership Academy, at which time Klein was chairman of the board.

The Leadership Academy was announced with great fanfare, like all Bloomberg initiatives, and school boards came from across the country to learn about it. What a great idea! Training business executives to be principals! It was about as good an idea as Bloomberg’s choice of a publishing executive to become chancellor after Klein stepped down. She lasted only three months.

The results of the Leadership Academy were unimpressive.

The only out-of-town principal who joined the program departed after six months. No business executives finished the program. It served as a pipeline for typically young teachers, who didn’t want to wait to gain the experience to become a school leader. Those who became principals found themselves in charge of a staff of veteran teachers who resented the quickie principals who had little experience and were in their late 20s or early 30s.

The city also cut its ties with TNTP, which Michelle Rhee created before she was D.C. Chancellor.

The New York Post reported that New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer conducted an audit of grants to the New York City Leadership Academy and found no evidence that the city was getting what it paid for.

The city Department of Education has awarded contracts worth up to $101 million to the NYC Leadership Academy — but didn’t keep track of where the money went, a bombshell audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer charges.

The Long Island City-based non-profit has collected $45.6 million from the contracts to coach “aspiring principals” and teachers. But the DOE failed to produce records to prove the $183-an-hour coaches did what they were paid for….

The contracts also require progress reports and meetings to monitor the vendor’s performance, but the auditors found none — raising the specter of “waste, fraud and abuse,” the report says.

“These failings point to a broken procurement system that allows the DOE to spend freely, devoid of oversight,” Stringer concludes. “Our principals deserve better than this.”

The DOE entered into three contracts with the academy since 2008, the first two under then-Mayor Bloomberg. The third, for payments up to $45 million from July 2014 to June 2019, was inked under Mayor de Blasio by Chancellor Carmen Farina’s chief operating officer. About $34.8 million available remains unspent.

Last month, de Blasio declared a “NYC Leadership Academy Day,” and declared the outfit “an important partner” in running city schools. Fariña praised the academy “for its tremendous work to prepare and support great school leaders.”

But the academy, founded in 2003, has also become notorious for graduating inept — and sometimes corrupt — principals with little teaching experience. Its “leadership coaches,” mostly retired principals, have also been hired in the mayor’s three-year-old Renewal program for struggling schools, which has shown meager academic gains.

The comptroller’s auditors reviewed $559,667 in DOE payments to the academy, including $394,007 for “leadership coaching.”

“Disregarding the safeguards in its own contracts and procurement rules,” the comptroller said, the DOE spent $385,612, or 98 percent of the coaching payments, without the required documentation.

This report is an indictment of mayor control, spanning both Bloomberg and de Blasio’s oversight, as well as the New York City Leadership Academy. Bloomberg and Klein announced the Leadership Academy with great fanfare as a way to fast-track “leaders” with a year of training. The original plan was intended to hire and train leaders from industry and aspiring principals from outside New York City, who would come into the school system and act as disruptors with fresh ideas. Neither of those approaches worked. Then, it became a way to jump from the role of teacher to principal while skipping the five-to-seven year apprenticeship of being an assistant principal. For a time, it was the latest new thing, like Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which has failed. It would be difficult to determine any benefit from the $101 million (actually much more, since Bloomberg raised $75 million for the LA’s first three years of operation).

This story appeared on the blog of Patrick Hayes’ EdFirstSC.

In Charleston, South Carolina, Principal Jake Rambo was ordered to evaluate his teachers based solely on the test scores of their students. Not multiple measures. Standardized tests.

He refused.

He was told that he was being transferred to another school because of his school’s test scores.

He said he didn’t want to leave his school.

He was told to tell the school community that he requested a transfer.

He said he wouldn’t lie.

He resigned rather than lie.

Dear Ms. Darby and CCSD Board of Trustees, Ms. Belk and District 2 Constituent Board,

It is with a heavy heart and out of a sense of moral obligation that I write to share with you my concerns about our District, its students, the James B. Edwards community, and specifically the events that have occurred over the last month. Alongside my wife, I have prayed about the decision to compose this letter and have acknowledged my fear continuing to work in a district that seems to often misrepresent the truth and punish those who question anything about its direction. It is my hope that you are truly unaware of what’s occurring in CCSD.

On the evening of April 24, I received a call from the Executive Director of the Elementary Learning Community, informing me that although I would receive a “Principal” contract for 2017-18, it would not be at JBE. I was shocked, as my tenure as principal of the school began less than two short years prior.

Not one time throughout this school year has any CCSD administrator, including the Superintendent, the Associate Superintendent of Schools, the Executive Director of the Elementary Learning Community, or the Director of the Elementary Learning Community visited our building. Neither had any leader shared with me a single concern about my performance, the performance of our teachers, or the performance of our students. Not one time, if it existed, were any community concerns conveyed to me, and not one time was even the “threat” of a potential move shared with me privately, publicly and/or in a group setting.

I was devastated, as I love our community, its parents and most importantly, its students. While we have lots left to accomplish, during my 1 ½ years at the school, we have increased student enrollment, put community programs in place to close the opportunity gap, increased physical activity opportunities, and improved parent, teacher, and student satisfaction.

The following morning, April 25, I met with the Executive Director of the Elementary Learning Community. The first thing he did was take a torn half-sheet of paper on which several rows of numbers were scribbled, handed me the paper and said, “Pick which scores are yours.” After asking for further
clarification about his request, I identified JBE students’ winter MAP scores. He then said, “That’s why you’re being moved.”

Perplexed again, I remained silent. My study of the NWEA website suggests that the intent of MAP is not to penalize students, teachers and/or principals. Instead, its purpose is to be used as a formative tool to help teachers know in what areas they need to focus their instruction throughout the following semester to grow students.

I sat silent, much as I had less than a month earlier on March 29, after being told in a principal allocation meeting that I should use testing data to place educators on improvement plans. I later spoke honestly to the teachers at JBE about my hesitation to do this and indicated that I would never use
student test scores in isolation to place teachers on improvement plans. Make no mistake: teachers and principals welcome accountability, but they want it to be fair, consistent, and student-centered.

After my meeting with the Executive Director on the morning of April 25, I met with the Superintendent later that day, per my request, after which I was more stunned than ever before. She indicated that the school’s data supported I did not have experience working in a “low income” school and said, “You are a young guy. You’ve not had experience working under a strong principal leader, have you?” Raised to respect authority, I did not respond that the principal underneath whom I worked for several years and who mentored me is currently appointed by the Superintendent herself as the Interim Director of Administrator Hiring and Leadership Development for CCSD.

I shared with the Superintendent that no one had visited our school or shared with me any performance concerns throughout the school year and that I was baffled why all of this was occurring. She indicated that because I received a principal contract and wasn’t being “demoted,” this wasn’t an issue. I remained silent. I was shocked to hear that such could actually happen in a school system where due process, best practice, and mentorship should exist for all teachers and administrators.

I changed the subject and shared with the Superintendent that I believed my work at JBE to be unfinished. As a result, I indicated that my community would likely be upset when it learned of this decision.

She then responded, “Your future in CCSD depends on how you handle this situation.” I sat silent.

She continued, “You could either play the victim, or you could tell your community it was your decision to leave JBE and that you’ve been ‘called’ to lead a school with students who need you more.”

Stunned it would be suggested I misrepresent “my” intentions to a community I love because of what appeared to be student test scores, my speaking out against a plan to put teachers on improvement plans, and my inexperience as a leader-I quickly explained that while I would “always respect my employer, I would not lie.”

She then said, “This is your truth to tell.”

On Thursday, April 27, I met with the Associate Superintendent of Schools. She confirmed the reasons I was being moved as student test data and a lack of diverse experience. During this meeting, she discussed the timeline with me for sharing this information with the JBE community. She approved the letter I had written to send to parents with the exception of a few sentences that identified the reasons for my move as student test scores and level of experiences. She requested that I remove those lines as “people don’t need that much information.”

I complied with her request and removed the information.

It was at this time that I made the one special request I’ve made throughout this process to the Associate Superintendent of Schools, to allow my 7 year old son to transfer from JBE and be placed at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School for 17-18. I explained that his remaining at JBE would be too hard
emotionally on him and our family as the school community and its teachers are very special to us all. This would also relieve a hardship on my wife and me in regards to transportation, as my sister is a teacher at the school.

The Associate Superintendent of Schools quickly and confidently approved this request, indicating it “would be no problem at all.” Afterwards, I spoke to the SIES principal and arranged the transfer.

I then notified my community of the transfer. When parents began sharing concerns with the Board of Trustees and district office, I received a call from the Associate Superintendent of Schools, indicating my 7 year old son would no longer be approved for a transfer and able to attend SIES. Instead, she indicated, “He’s been placed on the waiting list.”

Since then, parents and community members have been told by the Superintendent and Board members that it is because “of an outstanding skill set” that I’m being moved and that it has nothing to do with the aforementioned reasons. They even told a select group of parents in a closed-door meeting
that my transfer was unequivocally not about test scores.

If this decision was indeed based on an “outstanding skill set,” which would benefit students at another school, why could it not benefit the students at JBE, the most diverse elementary school in Mt. Pleasant? Who is advocating for all of these children in our community?

When the Associate Superintendent of Schools visited JBE for the first time this year, Friday, May 5, to meet with the faculty without me present, she, once again, informed staff that this decision was not about test scores. After the meeting, she said to me, “The Superintendent is NOT happy with this.”

Meanwhile, all of our students sit silent and wait. They wait for us to value them over test scores. They wait for us to value things like learning through play and physical activity. They wait for us to value real-world experiences over test preparation. They wait for us to empower their teachers to be creative and engage them in meaningful learning. Most of all, they wait for us to value doing what is right.

After nearly 10 years in CCSD, it is apparent that I now have a fundamental, philosophical difference with its leadership. Therefore, please accept this as my official letter of resignation, effective June 30, 2017.

Sincerely,
Jake Rambo
Principal
James B. Edwards Elementary School

I now place the name of Jake Rambo on the blog’s honor roll for his principled resistance to unconscionable policies that harm teachers and students.

Parents and many of the staff at Central Park East 1 Elementary School in New York City have been protesting the current principal. CPE was founded by Deborah Meier as an experimental progressive school. It has had many wonderful principals over the years, and it draws a cross-section of students from out of district. About 2/3 of the parents are opposed to the principal because they believe she does not share the vision of CPE and is trying to destroy it. The failure of the New York City Department of Education to find a solution to this imbroglio is inexplicable and puzzling.

Jane Andrias and Deborah Meier wrote this comment to explain the background:

Deborah Meier has been having difficulty with her vision and is now dependent on voice activated devices for reading and writing. As a result an earlier response to the blog was incomplete.

In early April, Deborah and I wrote a response to Kate Taylor’s article in the NY Times on the conflict at Central Park East 1 (“CPE1”). The letter was not published. Taylor’s article raised many of the right questions confronting the institution but failed to explore why there has been no constructive solution to address the continuing conflicts within the school community and restore the safe and supportive learning environment for children and adults, which had been the hallmark of the school.

CPE1 was founded in 1974 as part of an East Harlem initiative to show what could be possible in what was at that time one of the poorest and most educationally deprived communities in the city. The then District Superintendent, Anthony Alvarado, invited us to start a small, progressive and democratically governed school. Over the ensuing 30 years the school developed a national and international reputation for success in educating its children while maintaining a democratic culture. Faculty, staff, families and children all felt respected and heard even in times when internal differences or external policy changes challenged the integrity of the school’s core beliefs and highly developed practice. All important decisions were made collectively. One of the most notable features was the relationships that developed among staff, families and children, many of which last to this day. This continued and flourished long after Deborah left the school in 1985 under the leadership of the two principals who succeeded her.

While many of the attributes of the school have been threatened over the last decade, a third principal, who was the choice of the school community, succeeded in supporting the school culture and mission until she left to form her new school based on the principles and practices of CPE1.

The next principal who followed was also recommended by the school community but was not a strong enough leader to sustain and build on the mission of the school and the school began to erode. Three tenured teachers left the school at the end of her last year. Monika Garg was then appointed as the principal without the input or support of the school community. During the past two years with Ms. Garg as principal, the school’s mission has been totally undermined. Three more tenured teachers and one promising new teacher left the school at the end of last year.

A community that was once built on trust, compassion, the power of ideas and democratic process of decision making has become too distracted by controversy to function as a united and safe learning community for children and adults alike. Unless the unstated intent of the recent failure to end the turmoil of these past few years has been to close CPE1 so the space could be used for other purposes, it’s clear that we now face a choice between either replacing the principal or replacing the students, families and the school’s mission. We have made efforts over the past two years to join with the DOE to identify leadership that would build on the foundation of the past and restore the school’s excellent educational and democratic principles and culture. We are disappointed by the resistance of the DOE to take the necessary steps to constructively resolve this unrelenting and destructive conflict at CPE1.

Deborah Meier-1974-85-Founding Teacher/ Director, MacArthur Award Winner
Jane Andrias-1981-2003 Art Teacher and Principal