Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/91 Wed, 20 Jun 2018 00:07:59 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Let Carranza Lead http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7579:let-carranza-lead http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7579:let-carranza-lead Carranza de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


According to press reports, Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray, and First Deputy Mayor Fuleihan were the key decision-makers in appointing our new schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza. They now must let Carranza lead.

De Blasio had worked with Carmen Fariña for decades, so her appointment was a no-brainer. But when it came to finding her replacement, his secretive process blew up. Alberto Carvalho, the mayor’s first choice, publicly repudiated the job after taking it, reportedly because City Hall attached strings to his hiring authority. The micro-managers are now doing the same to Carranza. It has to stop.

First, soon-to-be-former Chancellor Fariña appointed herself to some ambiguous job placating warring co-located schools. Then Aimee Horowitz, the senior administrator for the beleaguered Renewal Schools program, was transferred from that post to assist Fariña’s efforts.

Installing the old chancellor in another job and reshuffling other leadership positions before Carranza arrives belittles an already hobbled second-choice candidate.
Mayoral control should not mean that chancellors become lap dogs to political expediency. In setting an agenda of continuity from on high, the mayor is sacrificing educational improvement to claim his previous education agenda as the single path to quality.

That’s nonsense. Whatever Fariña’s accomplishments, the system has yawning failures. Barely 40% of 3rd through 8th graders are proficient in reading, fewer than 30% for black and Latino students according to 2017 state test scores. Citywide math scores are even lower, with only one in five black students meeting proficiency standards. Graduation rates stand at about 70%, but only half of grads are deemed “college ready.” Add to that severe shortfalls in educational attainment by students with disabilities, English language learners, and students experiencing homelessness, and the mayor’s rosy picture seems less about progress and more about his next campaign.

Leadership untethered from claims of “Mission Accomplished” is needed for further progress and mid-course corrections. This can’t be done by a mayor wedded to his own record.

First, of course, is giving Carranza the ability to select deputies who know the system but are answerable to him, not City Hall. Next, he needs to be able to speak out not as a ventriloquist’s dummy but as someone who has already led two urban school districts.

Carranza’s statement that there is “no daylight” between him and the mayor better not be true. We are not talking about the Sun God here. De Blasio is prone to mistakes and it is up to Carranza to push back when issues arise, as when he needs to take on the politically powerful teachers union in upcoming contract negotiations.

Then there are policy matters where the mayor needs to take a step back. Carranza actually used the word “segregation” at his initial press conference, something the mayor regularly avoids. Taking on the multiple achievement gaps left to him will mean confronting widespread enrollment issues that de Blasio has so far refused to tackle.

Coming from outside the system after a secret search, a runner-up already scarred by gender-bias allegations and mixed reviews of his previous experience, our new chancellor must bring new thinking and new energy to the table. De Blasio has already done him a disservice by cocooning Carranza, who faces great challenges. But the greater challenge is the mayor’s to let his hand-picked leader lead.

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David C. Bloomfield is Professor of Educational Leadership, Law and Policy at Brooklyn College and The CUNY Graduate Center. On Twitter @BloomfieldDavid.

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Let Carranza Lead Sun, 01 Apr 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Education Adrift: New Chancellors Needed for City School, University Systems http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7481:education-adrift-new-chancellors-needed-for-city-school-university-systems http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7481:education-adrift-new-chancellors-needed-for-city-school-university-systems de Blasio Farina schools new chancellor

Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Fariña & others (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Lame duck chancellors now lead New York’s school and university systems. Governor Cuomo, who controls the CUNY board, and Mayor de Blasio, who appoints the schools chancellor, each show a shocking lack of urgency to fill these critical posts.

This is intolerable. Education is the driver of our information age. Social progress and economic prosperity depend on a vibrant public sector commitment. The city Department of Education enrolls a million children, pre-K through grade 12. CUNY enrolls 275,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Yet our elected leaders allow these essential institutions to remain rudderless.

Our schools and colleges should be brimming with excitement. New technologies, exploding fields of scientific endeavor, novel business opportunities, and a wealth of artistic media make this a particularly fertile time to teach and to learn. A new generation of education leaders is needed to meet this challenge, ready to bring vision and creativity to jobs that have become handmaidens to parochial political interests.

The leadership vacuum holds us back. New York’s position as the World’s Capital is threatened by educational backsliding and neglect. When Mayor de Blasio announced that Carmen Fariña’s successor would be cut from the same mold, my heart sank. Not that she’s been a bad chancellor but because we need a new chancellor, filled with original ideas and vision.

And who beside insiders even know the CUNY Chancellor’s name? James Milliken announced his departure three months ago after just three years on the job. His tenure has been marked by defending repeated charges of long-term fiscal mismanagement. Belated filling of vacancies on the CUNY board by Governor Cuomo and tensions surrounding appointment of City College’s new president added to system-wide stasis, a lost opportunity when Columbia, NYU, and Cornell’s new Roosevelt Island campus are all expanding.

Union leadership has been complicit in this lack of forward motion, settling into predictable cycles of management opposition and compliance for short-term interests. But Michael Mulgrew of the UFT and Barbara Bowen of PSC-CUNY, each safely ensconced in their positions, should do much more. New York labor leaders have historically been national figures, fighting tooth-and-nail for their members and the public good. Innovative contract terms can be an engines for implementing instructional progress if union sights are raised above routine salary demands.

Current belt-tightening by the federal, state, and city governments should not be an excuse for treading water. If anything, the budget picture requires increased institutional agility. Consolidation of organizational structures may be necessary, requiring different operational strategies. Principled reform of antiquated or unneeded functions can be catalyzed by cuts. Public officials’ well-known motto that “no serious crisis should go to waste” requires courage and consensus to implement. This is a challenge that requires new thinking, pointing again to the need for immediate change in the city’s top education posts.

This is a propitious moment for such change. With two ambitious politicians on the cusp of filling these leadership positions, a coordinated approach to New York City’s educational future is possible. Perhaps the Cuomo-de Blasio feud can find a moment of détente or realization that their mutual self-interest dictates summitry. With claims to being The Education Governor and The Education Mayor, the high-visibility appointment of quality chancellors for each of their fiefs will send a message of optimism and renewal that both can use to their advantage. Let us hope this flickering possibility can light our educational future.

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David C. Bloomfield is Professor of Educational Leadership, Law & Policy at Brooklyn College and The CUNY Graduate Center. On Twitter @BloomfieldDavid.

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Education Adrift: New Chancellors Needed for City School, University Systems Wed, 14 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Education in De Blasio's Second Term http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7448:max-murphy-podcast-education-in-de-blasio-s-second-term http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7448:max-murphy-podcast-education-in-de-blasio-s-second-term

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


January 30, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Monica Disare of Chalkbeat-NY and Eliza Shapiro of Politico New York

3kall pod 277

The day after he won reelection in November, Mayor de Blasio said, "We have to achieve 3-K in the next four years...We have to get our kids reading on grade level by third grade. We need the school system to look entirely different in the coming years. It’s come a long way but there’s much, much more to do. And that is the mission I will be most focused on. That will be the issue I put my greatest passion and energy into."

What does that all mean? What should we expect on education in term two? Who will be the next schools chancellor as de Blasio looks to replace the retiring Carmen Fariña? What will be the most controversial aspects of the mayor's education agenda over the next four years? To help us break it all down we were joined on the podcast by two extremely knowledgeable education reporters: Monica Disare of Chalkbeat-NY and Eliza Shapiro of Politico New York.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy, with guests @MonicaDisare and @ElizaShapiro. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Education in De Blasio's Second Term Tue, 30 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Celebrating ‘Renewal’ Success as We Acknowledge More Work To Do http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7408:celebrating-renewal-successes-as-we-acknowledge-more-work-to-do http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7408:celebrating-renewal-successes-as-we-acknowledge-more-work-to-do celebrating renew

Mayor de Blasio & Chancellor Fariña on a school visit (photo: Rob Bennett/Mayor's Office)


School is back in session after an eventful December and long break. As students returned to our community schools, so many were grateful to be back where supports and resources are in place. For many of our students, community schools provide additional support services; food pantries; mental health and social-emotional learning programs; and family support aligned to what’s happening in the classroom. In other words, they focus on educating the “whole child.”  

Coming back to school in the new year feels like a good time to recognize the commitment the city and many nonprofits like mine have made to creating community schools. And, three years into the Renewal School program— the largest school turnaround effort in New York City’s history, which has a two-pronged strategy: the infusion of a strong instructional core and the conversion of every school into a community school—it’s time to look at the results. Each Renewal School has a non-profit partner to lead its transformation into a community school; the goal is to bring together the expertise of educators and community partners to make improvements across all the areas schools need to succeed.

My organization, Partnership with Children, is a partner in nine Renewal Schools, and we are proud that two of them – Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem and P.S. 67 in Fort Greene – have made steady progress and will transition out of the Renewal program to become “Rise Schools.” As we evaluate the potential of the investments made in Renewal Schools, we need to recognize the success of these schools and others like them.

Renaissance School of the Arts is exemplary because it has the right people and resources in place, thanks in large part to its Renewal School status. The school leadership and faculty are strong and have implemented new cutting-edge teacher training. Partnership with Children’s social work team has provided counseling, a parent support group, and social-emotional learning workshops. By working together, Renaissance and Partnership with Children have established a flourishing school culture where a strong student voice is developing, both in and out of the classroom. You see it in an active student government, a student-run school store, and even the way students communicate and support their ideas when interacting with adults.

Attendance is at 95% so far this year, up from 89% for the 2013-14 school year. Since 2014, the percentage of students proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) has increased 17 points and the percentage of students proficient in math has increased 13 points. There is need for more improvement, but the model is working at Renaissance.

We also have an excellent partnership at P.S. 67 with the ambitious and impressive principal and her dedicated team. Partnership with Children staff are in the school building before, during, and after the school day – and on the weekends and during the summer – working side-by-side with the principal. Parents stay after drop-off and pick-up to meet with guidance counselors and social workers, teachers are eager and faculty retention is increasing, and student outcomes are improving. Proficiency in ELA has improved 20 percentage points; in math, 10 points. This is what happens when everyone in a school building puts their resources, experience, and heads together.

The students, faculty, staff and leaders at both of these schools are ambitious and aligned, and that is part of what helped them make gains that other Renewal Schools have struggled to make. They’ve broken down silos and gotten all the adults in the school community on the same page. Data absolutely drives their work.

In light of the news about the schools that are closing, I urge us not to overlook the success of schools like Renaissance and P.S. 67, and the others moving from Renewal to Rise Schools. It should inspire us to re-commit to this radical transformation of schools – not pull back from that call to action. The DOE has committed to continuing the Community Schools partnerships and investments in educating the whole child in the 21 new Rise Schools—those that have met their benchmarks, including Renaissance and P.S. 67.  And it is also responsibly making the difficult decision to close the schools that are farthest off their benchmarks.

Programs are always politicized, but let’s not let our children be. I applaud the commitment of the DOE, the City, and our fellow community-based organizations to take on the challenges of these schools – underperforming and under-resourced for decades – at an unprecedented scale.

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Margaret Crotty is the executive director of Partnership with Children. On Twitter @PWCNYC.

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Celebrating ‘Renewal’ Success as We Acknowledge More Work To Do Mon, 08 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
How Bill de Blasio Can Redeem His Education Record http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7404:how-bill-de-blasio-can-redeem-his-education-record http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7404:how-bill-de-blasio-can-redeem-his-education-record Mayor de Blasio town hall Cumbo

Mayor de Blasio at a town hall (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)


Bill de Blasio was re-elected as mayor and will remain in control of our public schools for four more years, unless the Legislature amends mayoral control or allows it to expire in 2019. It was recently announced that Carmen Fariña, de Blasio’s hand-picked schools chancellor, will be leaving and a “national search” has begun to find her replacement. We urge the mayor to involve the public in the selection process, as he promised during his first campaign but failed to follow through on when selecting Fariña.  

Instead, he apparently plans a “quiet internal decision.” Yet by opening up the process, he would have the benefit of a wider choice of candidates, and by involving parents, he would be better able to ensure that the next chancellor is more responsive to their concerns.  

One of us is a long-time parent advocate and the other is the former president of the Community Education Council in District 2 in Manhattan – although what we say here only represents our own personal views. We are also members of NYC Kids PAC, which released a mayoral report card this fall, in which we gave de Blasio and his chancellor low grades in many education areas, surprising city residents who do not have children in the public schools. The reasons are myriad.

The mayor continues to underfund our schools, and most schools still receive only 87% of the amount promised when the Fair Student Funding formula was devised ten years ago, despite increased costs and repeated city surpluses. This underfunding has contributed to larger classes and inadequate services at many schools. Meanwhile, the number of top-level administrators has nearly doubled, with 70% more spent on central staff bureaucracy than during the last year of the Bloomberg administration, and with 34% more spent on central staff expenses.  

The mayor renounced his earlier campaign promise to parents to lower class size, and the chancellor repeatedly stated in public meetings that she has been more concerned that classes can be too small -- despite the fact that New York City students continue to suffer from the largest classes in the state. The number of students in grades one to three in classes of 30 or more has increased by nearly 3,800 percent since 2007 and more than 290,000 students -- nearly one-third of the total -- are crammed into classes this large. The city’s refusal to act to lower class size prompted a legal complaint against the DOE, filed with the State Education Department this summer.

Meanwhile, more than half a million students are currently attending overcrowded schools.

With the student population growing in many parts of the city, the school capital plan will create only about half the seats required to alleviate overcrowding, according to the DOE’s own estimates. And while Mayor de Blasio has delivered on his promise to expand pre-kindergarten, the administration has pushed the program into many schools where it worsened overcrowding and contributed to larger class sizes. As more than 73 professors of education and psychology pointed out in a letter to the Chancellor Fariña, many of the benefits of expanded pre-K will likely be undermined because of the administration’s refusal to address the need to lower class size in other grades.  

Forty million dollars per year has been spent on consultants and bureaucrats to oversee the struggling schools in the Renewal program, many with records marked by scandal or found to be incompetent in previous positions. Though the DOE made special promises to the state to reduce class size in these schools, nearly three-quarters continue to have maximum class sizes of 30 or more;  and in nearly half, average class sizes have not decreased by even one student.  It is no surprise that by most accounts, improvements in these schools have not been impressive, with one-third  facing or having already experienced merger or closure.

Too often the chancellor has left administrators in positions where they have abused their authority. It took nearly a year of intense student protests before Rosemarie Jahoda, the acting principal at Townsend Harris High School, was removed, even after nearly every local Queens elected official asked for her dismissal. Chancellor Fariña was also deaf to the entreaties of parents at Central Park East 1 for over a year. They pointed out how their principal was violating the progressive and collaborative traditions of the school. In other instances, the chancellor left corrupt principals in place when they engaged in rampant fraud, including Kathleen Elvin, who remained the principal at John Dewey High School for nearly two years, despite numerous news reports exposing her schemes to inflate the school’s graduation rate.  

While running for office, Mayor de Blasio promised to lessen high stakes testing and make school admissions based on more holistic factors. Yet in 28 out of 32 districts, admissions to gifted programs are still based solely on a single high-stakes exam. The same is true for  admissions to the eight specialized high schools, even in the five schools where this is under the mayor’s sole control; and too many other middle and high schools continue to use test scores as central factors in their screening process.

Though de Blasio also promised to “develop a non-punitive process” to allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, the chancellor has failed to respect the resolution passed by the City Council which calls upon the DOE to include information about this in its Parent's Bill of Rights.

For many of us, the realization that New York City is one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation was appalling, and yet Chancellor Fariña suggested that this problem could be addressed by encouraging wealthy students to become pen pals with poor students in other public schools. After much public pressure, the mayor and the chancellor finally released a diversity plan last spring, yet an analysis by the Center for New York City Affairs found that its goals were so weak they could be met if current demographic trends continue -- without any actions taken.

The Panel for Educational Policy, made up of a supermajority of mayoral appointees, is still largely a rubber stamp when it comes to approving excessive contracts and damaging co-locations and school closings. The recommendations of parents and teachers on School Leadership Teams are usually ignored, as is the input of parent-led Community Education Councils.

The DOE also suffers from a lack of transparency, and is the least responsive of city agencies when it comes to fulfilling Freedom of Information requests -- taking an average of 103 days to respond. The chancellor insisted on closing meetings of School Leadership Teams, even when a decision by the State Supreme Court concluded that these meetings must be open to the public. She only conceded when the Appellate Court ordered her to reverse course in a unanimous decision.

When he took office, Mayor de Blasio promised to listen to parents and community members rather than treat the Department of Education as his personal fiefdom. Chancellor Fariña announced she would take a new direction based on a “Framework of Great Schools,” involving collaboration and trust among parents, teachers, and administrators. Yet too often that sense of trust has been broken, and the mayor and chancellor have exhibited a regrettable lack of regard for parent views.  

We urge the mayor to involve the public in the vetting process for a new chancellor, as he had previously said should be the case. He should announce how individuals can apply for the position, and allow parents and other citizens to ask questions of leading candidates and provide feedback on their responses. In this way, he might be able to redeem his record and raise the chances that our next chancellor will partner with parents and community members to focus on the critical problems that are crying out to be addressed in our schools.

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Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters and Shino Tanikawa is the President of NYC Kids PAC.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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How Bill de Blasio Can Redeem His Education Record Thu, 04 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
In the Age of De Blasio, A Bloomberg Era Small School Reunion http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6502:in-the-age-of-de-blasio-a-bloomberg-era-small-school-reunion http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6502:in-the-age-of-de-blasio-a-bloomberg-era-small-school-reunion reunion photo Andrea story1

reunion photo by Chrystina Russell, former principal of Global Tech


In July, I found myself back in the East Harlem cafeteria shared by Global Technology Preparatory and P.S. 7. The occasion for my visit was a reunion of Global Tech’s first class of eighth-graders, who were now, four years after their middle-school commencement, graduating from high school.

I was eager to return and see how the students had fared. I knew from my ongoing contacts with the school and its students that several had endured more than their fair share of tragedy, including homelessness, violence and depression, and yet many were getting ready to go to college. There were, however, at least two boys who would not make it to graduation because they were at Rikers Island.

Global Tech, as the middle school became known, was one of the first public schools that I began to follow as part of my research on how business ideas, especially those of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would influence K-12 education. I was curious to see how a school that was seen, in many ways, as a Bloomberg-era success story was faring under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña. A number of changes, some driven by the new administration’s desire to merge small schools—a major departure from Bloomberg policy—foreshadowed significant shifts at the school.

I learned about Global Tech when I served on the New York State Regents’ Committee to redraft the ELA standards, and shared train rides back from Albany to the city with Jackie Pryce-Harvey, one of the few educators on the committee who was both African-American and who taught in the inner-city. (The committee’s proposal was jettisoned when New York adopted the Common Core.) At the time, Pryce-Harvey was getting ready to launch Global Tech with her friend Chrystina Russell.

Pryce-Harvey and Russell had met in the New York City Teaching Fellows program and hit it off immediately—though they were an unlikely team. Pryce-Harvey, an immigrant from Jamaica, was in her 50s when she and Russell launched the technology-focused middle school in East Harlem. Pryce-Harvey’s technological skills didn’t extend much beyond sending emails.

Russell, by contrast, was 28 at the time they opened their school, and came from Muskegon, MI, an affluent white town, and a family of staunch Republicans. When it came to education, there was little about traditional schooling that Russell wanted for her kids; poor, inner-city, children of color should have access to the best technology because once they learn how to use the web and become thoughtful consumers of online information, they don’t have to worry as much about not knowing the texts written by old white men, she was sure.

However, both women were part of a generation of educators who had developed their careers in the wake of New York City’s small-schools movement, which dates back at least to Tony Alvarado and Debbie Meier’s “Miracle in Harlem,” which began in District 4 in the 1970s, and was newly embraced by Bloomberg.

Global Tech joined the administration’s “Innovation Zone,” or iZone initiative, to use “new” approaches to education, including digital technology and more flexible class schedules, such as longer learning blocks and extended school days, to improve student engagement and performance. (Flexible class schedules had actually been pioneered in  New York City years before the Bloomberg administration.)

Many early iZone schools dropped out of the program. But Global Tech thrived, and the school eagerly signed onto Chancellor Joel Klein’s grand bargain of increased autonomy in exchange for accountability. But, in the Alvarado-Meier tradition, Russell and Pryce-Harvey also saw their school as a collaborative venture in which they would work closely with both teachers and their community.

Both women were also trained as special education teachers and were committed to welcoming kids with special needs and mainstreaming them. Surrounded by charter schools, the special needs population at Global Tech - as at many neighboring Harlem schools - climbed sharply, from about 30 percent its first year to over 40 percent in recent years. Global Tech is a universal Title I school full of students from low-income households; almost all its students are black and Latino.

Pryce-Harvey was willing to help mid-wife the new school and to serve as the unofficial assistant principal—at least until she completed the administrator’s certification she would soon start working on. But, she was already planning her retirement and was sure she was not prepared to run the show. Instead, she encouraged Russell, who had graduated from the NYC Leadership Academy, a Bloomberg-era principal training program, to take the lead at their school, which featured a one-to-one student-to-laptop computer model.

And so it was that during the summer of 2009 the two women began hosting Sunday brunches in Pryce-Harvey’s Harlem brownstone for about half-a-dozen teachers who were hoping to teach at the school. None would be officially hired until the end of the summer. As Pryce-Harvey’s frequent travel companion to Albany, she invited me to attend the brunches and watch the school incubate.

The brunch participants included Jhonary Bridgemohan, who had once dreamed of becoming a mortician, but was now teaching English-Language Arts, as well as David Baiz, who had been rated “unsatisfactory” at the South Bronx school where he was then teaching, and feared he would be unfairly forced out.

Both Baiz and Bridgemohan had been mentored by Pryce-Harvey at PS/MS 4 in the South Bronx, which all three described as utterly dysfunctional and were eager to escape.

Now, seven years later, Russell has moved on to other educational ventures. (She first helped launch a hybrid university in Kigali, Rwanda, for Kepler, an educational nonprofit, and recently became a vice president at Southern New Hampshire University.)

Russell’s tenure at Global Tech serves, at least in part, as a commentary on the limits of the Bloomberg/Klein efforts to rein in the educational bureaucracy. Making the most of the autonomy-for-accountability bargain the administration promised, she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in private funding for Global Tech from companies like GE and Cisco and invested in a slew of opportunities for her kids, including an extended day program via Citizens Schools and an arrangement with Computers for Youth, which, for a time, provided a home computer for every Global Tech child.

An inveterate rule breaker, Russell also would field 27 bureaucratic investigations during her three years as Global Tech principal, though all but one would eventually be dismissed. The lone remaining charge—that fearing the loss of a treasured school secretary, an education-department veteran with both strong people skills and deep knowledge of bureaucratic arcana, when her family moved to Connecticut, Russell used privately raised funds to subsidize the secretary’s train tickets to work.

When I asked Russell, recently, if she could ever see herself back in the public school system, she responded elliptically: “The Bloomberg-Klein years were the ones for me.”

Russell groomed David Baiz as her successor. She had once said of Baiz: “David is skilled; he’s always moving forward.” “[H]e gives 125 percent” virtually every day, she added.

Baiz’s accomplishments at Global Tech were considerable. He helped win the school thousands of dollars in grants and served as its de facto technology guru. A nationally recognized math teacher, he won a prestigious Math for America fellowship complete with a $15,000-per-year stipend. And he was selected as one of six New York City teachers to be part of the Digital Teacher Corps, a Ford Foundation-funded collaboration among educators, technologists, and designers to develop interactive digital learning tools. He was also beloved by students and respected by his colleagues.

Meanwhile, Pryce-Harvey has taken over as principal of P.S. 7, the K-to-8 school that shares a building with Global Tech.

The promotions of Baiz and Pryce-Harvey are a testament to Global Tech’s reputation. During 2012-2013, the school’s third year, and the last year for which such data is available—the de Blasio administration discontinued school grades as well as test-score comparisons among “peer” schools—Global Tech’s student growth scores were far above “peer schools” in both ELA and math. The scores were especially high for kids in the “bottom third” of their classes.

In math, the “growth scores” of the bottom-third of Global Tech students almost equaled the performance of a comparable cohort of students citywide—that is schools with both affluent and poor children. Global Tech also enjoyed a 94 percent attendance rate, far above “peer” schools. The school earned an “A” for the student progress portion of the report card, which measures how much individual students improved over the previous year, and a “highly developed” on the academic rigor portion of the evaluation.

Moreover, virtually everyone loved the school. On its Learning Environment Surveys, Global Tech scored well over 90 percent on almost every measure of parent, teacher, and student satisfaction.

But the future of Global Tech also could turn out to be a referendum on the leadership of Carmen Fariña, who is not particularly keen on small schools, and is reputed never to have met a Bloomberg-era innovation that she likes.

Even as Baiz and Russell, who had just returned from Rwanda, were hastily putting together the reunion, the future of the school is uncertain.

For the reunion, close to half of the 60-or-so students in Global Tech’s first cohort showed up in the school’s cafeteria, as well as most of the teachers who taught that first year, including a few who have moved on to other jobs. Many of Global Tech’s alums have been visiting the school throughout high school for help with homework, SAT prep, or just a chance to visit with teachers who have served as their mentors since middle school. During close to two dozen visits to the school during the past two years, Global Tech alums have been a clear, regular presence.

Almost every alum at the reunion said she or he was going on to college—in most cases community college. Pryce-Harvey explained that four-year college was out of reach for most Global Tech alums unless they received hefty scholarships.

Kaira was a stand-out in her Global Tech class, and served as valedictorian of her graduating class at the iSchool, another flagship Bloomberg venture. She had dreamed of attending Stanford University, but as an undocumented student who has spent much of her teen years without a fixed address—and sometimes homeless—she is instead going to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York.

To hear Kaira tell it, school, especially at Global Tech, has been a refuge and a beacon. “It may be that I’m struggling with a problem in English class or math, but it’s nothing like whatever struggle I deal with at home,” Kaira said. “It’s easier to find solutions” to those academic problems, than the ones she faces in her personal life.

“My education has always been a therapeutic experience,” she said. “That place where I can escape.”

Kaira sings the praises of her iSchool teachers who held regular after-school office hours. But in her sophomore year, when she needed help with her American history Regents exam, she turned to her old math teacher, Mr. Baiz. Later, he helped her with AP English, “which is bizarre,” says the 18-year-old with a big smile.

For Kaira, teachers like Baiz and Bridgemohan have been a much needed anchor. Global Tech is also the place where she learned to dream big and to believe that she might be able to go to college.

Tabitha, Kaira’s classmate both at the iSchool and at Global Tech, also leaned on her middle-school teachers when times got tough. When Tabitha landed in a homeless shelter in her junior year of high school and suffered from depression, she fell behind in her school work. But she kept showing up occasionally at Global Tech. Baiz worried that Tabitha might not finish high school and consulted with the iSchool’s administration. Tabitha, too, succeeded in graduating and is planning on attending community college.

Miguel said of himself, at the reunion, that he had been a “horrible student” at Global Tech, one who was “always suspended”—though the suspensions usually involved doing his school work in Russell’s office. He transferred in and out of high schools, but eventually got his GED. He’s now enrolling in CUNY’s BMCC and planning to major in business management.

Raimi was one of several Global Tech students who got into Manhattan Hunter Science High, which has an early college arrangement that allows seniors to take college courses at Hunter College during their senior year. Raimi now has a four-year scholarship to Hunter College.

Raven, another Global Tech student who got into Manhattan Hunter Science, regularly sought out Baiz both for help with her math homework and for much needed advice as, for example, when she decided to transfer to a less competitive high school. Raven is taking a gap year and thinking of joining the military.

Quentin went from Global Tech to Cardinal Hayes, which he described as a “really good” Catholic school; but when the tuition fees got too high for his mom, he transferred to Life Sciences Secondary School. He found the transition from private school back to public school “difficult,” he says. He “got too comfortable,” but snapped back at the “last second.” He says he’s going to Monroe College in New Rochelle. His goal, he says without prompting, is “to take my mom out of the ‘hood.” 

Ismauri attended Manhattan Business Academy High and is going to the College of Staten Island. Travis is going to New York City Tech, a four-year CUNY college. Kamarthi got a basketball scholarship to attend SUNY Buffalo. Adonia is going to St. Francis in Brooklyn.

Dariya and Dariel, a sister-brother duo, are both going to Dutchess Community College. Dariya is planning to become a cosmetologist. Her brother, Dariel, has been completing a vocational program in auto mechanics and working in an auto shop through high school; he plans to become a mechanic.

Several students who didn’t get word of the reunion in time or couldn’t attend also are headed to college, among them David and Derek.

“Global Tech is a real family,” said Maria, one of the only parents who attended the reunion, there with her daughter, Amanda, who will be attending Guttman Community College in the Fall. “Of all the schools Amanda went to, this was the one with heart,” Maria said.

Yet, not all Global Tech graduates have overcome the considerable obstacles these kids face—including the gangs that rule the housing projects where many of them live. Two boys from the inaugural Global Tech class are in jail at Rikers Island awaiting sentencing. News of what had happened to a boy named Franklin hit Russell and Pryce-Harvey particularly hard. “I'm devastated,” emailed Russell when she first got the news this Spring. “Love that kid. And wow did Jackie and I ever spend a lot of time with him and his family.”

Russell and Pryce-Harvey both visited Franklin at Rikers and Russell showed up in court. Russell, who says she considers Franklin’s incarceration a “personal failure,” has petitioned the judge to allow her to take Franklin with her to Boston—and away from bad influences in his neighborhood; she wants to enroll him in a GED program and, eventually, at Southern New Hampshire University. She is awaiting the court’s decision. Russell says of Franklin: “He has no hate in his heart. And he is so smart.”

In a letter he wrote to the judge while he was incarcerated at Rikers, Franklin pleaded for the opportunity to finish his education.

The reunion in the Global Tech cafeteria had the air of celebration. Most of the students had kept up with at least one or two teachers from the school. Some had attended earlier pizza parties for alums. But there were hugs and high-fives as kids who hadn’t seen each other in four years reconnected.

Yet, unbeknownst to its alumni, Global Tech faces an uncertain future. In a reversal of Bloomberg’s small-schools policy, Farina plans to merge dozens of small schools, arguing that mergers will create economies of scale and allow schools to offer more programs.

Rumors that a new District 4 superintendent, Alexandra Estrella, was planning to merge Global Tech and P.S. 7 began swirling over a year ago. At the time, P.S. 7 was run by Sameer Talati, whose once cordial relationship with Global Tech had begun to deteriorate. According to several people close to Global Tech, Baiz suggested to Talati that they propose merging the two middle schools under Global Tech’s leadership and that Talati continue running the P.S. 7 elementary school. Talati,  however, is said to have made a bid to run both schools.

Many educators familiar with Harlem schools consider Global Tech to be the stronger school, and urged Baiz to fight to lead any merger. Somewhat belatedly, Baiz, whose strengths as an educator do not include bureaucratic politics, was persuaded to make the case that Global Tech should be the lead school in a merger.

Talati eventually moved to DOE headquarters. Pryce-Harvey was appointed interim principal at P.S. 7. Baiz, for now, remains in charge of Global Tech.

But the ground under Global Tech continues to shift. The rumors of a merger still abound. Meanwhile, Baiz was turned down for tenure and the school’s most recent quality review, dated 2014-2015, was decidedly mediocre even though more than one experienced educator has referred to him as “one of the best principals in Harlem.”

On the only “quality review” posted by the DOE under Fariña, Global Tech earned a “developing”—the second lowest on a four-point scale—on two of five evaluation criteria, and a “proficient” on three criteria. The school did not earn a single “well developed”—the highest rating—not even for school culture, even though, since its inception, Global Tech has scored off-the-charts school-environment surveys.

By contrast, the administration gave P.S. 7, under Talati, six ‘proficients,’ four ‘well-developeds,’ and no ‘developings’ on his last quality review in 2013-2014, on a slightly more detailed rubric than the one used by the DOE the following year.

Similarly, on P.S. 7’s next quality review, which took place just two months after Pryce-Harvey took over, the school received four ‘proficients,’ one ‘well-developed,’ and no ‘developings.’

Baiz’s mistake, says one educator close to the school, was that he didn’t “play the game,” relying on the reviewer to look at the students “digital portfolios” where students keep copies of their work.

Russell also believes that Baiz’s reluctance to fight the planned takeover by P.S. 7 may have been “viewed as weakness” by the superintendent.

Whatever the case, Pryce-Harvey, at P.S. 7, had carefully prepared for her review, having her teachers refine lesson plans to show, among other things, how they reflected administrator observations and feedback and how that feedback had positively impacted student performance on, say, test scores. The revised lesson plans were then placed, along with other school data, in two binders, each three-to-four inches thick, neatly separated by tabs listing key elements of the quality-review rubric—including curriculum, parent engagement, and teacher evaluations.

New York City educators loved to hate the Bloomberg/Klein administration, with its penchant for serial reorganizations and its army of MBAs. At the same time, some of the city’s best principals conceded that the businessman-mayor’s school administration had made their lives easier. For principals who survived the New York City iZone’s many incarnations, or who had inherited the small-school mantel from Meier and Alvarado, the Bloomberg years were an opportunity to experiment with some relief from bureaucratic control.

However, the Bloomberg/Klein era was also one of creative destruction, which has been described by insiders as a deliberate Humpty Dumpty strategy—one designed to break the education bureaucracy such that it could never be put back together again. If so, the strategy has proved short-lived.

Under the de Blasio/Farina administration, according to many city educators, micromanagement is once again rampant. Even the most prized power conferred on principals by Klein—control over their budgets—has not proved sacrosanct. For example, when Baiz sought to promote Bridgemohan, his long-time colleague, to fill Pryce-Harvey’s shoes as assistant principal, Estrella is said to have nixed the plan. It was the sort of interference in principal decision making unprecedented in Global Tech’s seven year history.

Estrella did not return repeated requests for an interview.

Many seasoned educators have voted with their feet. Spurred by new testing and teacher-evaluation mandates, as well as dismay over meddling by a newly muscular central administration, several veteran principals retired or transferred to new jobs at the end of the Bloomberg administration and beginning of the de Blasio administration. Many of those who remain report feeling increasingly frustrated, especially by what they describe as the new administration’s micromanagement.

For Global Tech, one of the few certainties is that as long as Baiz and the school’s long-time teachers remain, they will continue to serve a much needed support for students and alums.

PRIOR COVERAGE OF GLOBAL TECH, THE IZONE, & MORE FROM ANDREA GABOR:

A Harlem Middle School Bets on Technology

City Schools Gamble on Going Digitial

In the Waning Months of Bloomberg's Tenure, A Signature Education Innovation is at a Crossroads

When Making a Great Teacher is a Team Effort

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Andrea Gabor is the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College/CUNY and is working on a new book on education reform. On Twitter @aagabor.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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In the Age of De Blasio, A Bloomberg Era Small School Reunion Sun, 28 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
DOE School Survey Shows High Marks, Contrasts with Public Polling http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6473:doe-school-survey-shows-high-marks-contrasts-with-public-polling http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6473:doe-school-survey-shows-high-marks-contrasts-with-public-polling de Blasio Farina student test scores

Mayor, Chancellor & Student (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


In 2007, New York City administered its first comprehensive survey on school satisfaction levels among students, parents, and teachers in the city’s vast public school system. That year, the Department of Education received just under 600,000 responses. In 2016, with the survey in its tenth year, the number of responses totaled over 1 million for the first time. It was also the first year that parents and teachers involved in the de Blasio administration’s new “Pre-K for All” program were included among the survey’s respondents.

The results of the survey are usually quite positive and this year was no exception, leading the DOE to celebrate the responses as validation of programming gone right. In the DOE’s press release announcing the 2016 survey results, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said, “As we work towards equity and excellence in every public school across the City, parents are our partners, and it’s great to see over one million New Yorkers – including a record number of parents – sharing their input. Together, we’ll continue the progress we’ve made and make New York City the best urban school district in the nation.”

While the DOE survey suggests students, parents, and teachers are highly satisfied with New York City public schools, a recent Quinnipiac poll conducted suggests that not all New Yorkers agree. According to the poll, 60 percent of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with New York City public schools while 25 percent are satisfied. (The remaining 15% answered that they don’t know.) A higher percentage of respondents said they prefer privately-run public charter schools to traditional public schools.

According the Department of Education website, the purpose of the survey is to aid schools in identifying aspects of its learning environment that need improvement and ensure that schools continue to foster elements of their learning environments that are satisfactory to students, parents, and teachers alike. While the survey provides the DOE with at least some helpful data, there are questions about its usefulness, format, and cost.

There are three different versions of the NYC School Survey -- one each for students, parents, and teachers. This year, 81 percent of teachers, 83 percent of students, and 51 percent of parents in community schools across the city responded to the survey. The response rates increased by one percentage point from the 2015 survey for both students and parents and remained the same for teachers.

Parents’ overall satisfaction with their children’s schools continued to be extremely high. When asked “How satisfied” they were with “The education my child has received this year,” 95 percent of those who took the survey responding that they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied.” That figure has remained constant at 95 percent since 2013. Students recorded high levels of satisfaction with their schools as well, with 80 percent of student respondents recording that they either “strongly agree” or “agree” with the statement, “My school offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school.” Additionally, 80 percent of students felt supported by teachers in their preparations for their post-graduation plans.

Other specific questions relate to school environment (e.g. school cleanliness, personal safety while at school, bullying among classmates); the quality of academic instruction; level of support among teachers and school leadership; and ease of communication among all parties. While some questions appear on all three surveys with slight variations, some questions are particular to each group. For example, only parents are asked the question of what improvements they would like to see at their school (as in their child’s school).

Many survey questions ask respondents to note how much they agree with a series of statements. Other questions use a similar format but measure the frequency of a certain behavior or condition - for example, “How often do students in your class(es) work in small groups?” Some are formatted as multiple choice questions with specific responses to questions like, “Which improvements would you most like your schools to make?”

The cost of conducting the 2016 survey was approximately $1.85 million.

Elements of school quality are evaluated through the DOE’s Framework for Great Schools, a tool of analysis that looks at six aspects of a school’s learning environment -- rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust -- to determine its ability to foster student achievement. The Framework for Great Schools was adopted in 2015, the 2016 schools survey reflects only the second year of results based on the new evaluation framework adopted by the DOE under Chancellor Farina.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on reducing class size in New York City schools, said that the Framework for Great Schools is a well-intentioned model, but she believes it is an ineffective tool in practice.

“The original concept, this Framework of Great Schools that came out of Chicago, was very useful…[it] came out of this study by Tony Bryk that looked at schools in Chicago, and he looked at which ones had strong Local School Councils and which ones did not, and the ones that had Local School Councils -- which really devolved a lot of decision-making to the school level and it included parents as the majority members -- had better results,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview.

“Now this administration has a lot of PR about parent involvement, but I can tell you that they have not empowered a School Leadership Team to the degree that they need to. School Leadership Teams -- unlike in Chicago -- do not have the power in New York City, don’t have any authority over principal selection or even really principal evaluation, and a lot of other things. They’re really disempowered.”

According to the DOE, research from the Chicago Consortium on School Research was one source used to formulate the Framework for Great Schools, but it was not the only source. And while the DOE’s Framework was created using research from outside sources, the DOE says that the final product is an analysis tool tailored specifically for the New York City school system.

Prior to the creation of the Framework for Great Schools the city school survey evaluated schools based on four elements of a school’s learning environment: academic expectations, communication, engagement, and safety and respect.

While the majority of the survey’s questions are designed to assess schools based on the six elements of the Framework for Great Schools, some questions are considered “informational.”

One informational question consistently posed to parents has garnered a largely consistent response since the survey’s creation. When parents are asked the question of what they would most like to see improved in their child’s school, “smaller class size” and “more enrichment programs” have been in or near the top two most wanted improvements almost every year that the survey has been given. Also featured at or near the top for many years are “more preparation for state tests” and “more hands-on learning.”

Despite consistently high satisfaction levels among parents with city schools overall, the fact that these improvements continue to be parents’ top requests year after year may be indicative of a lack of meaningful action taken on these requests by school leadership.

There are also questions about the consistency of the survey itself. In 2015, the question of potential improvements wasn’t offered to parents for the first time since the survey was created in 2007, but it was reintroduced in the 2016 survey, and, for the first time, the term “enrichment programs” was explained in the question using examples.

David Bloomfield, professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, questions the usefulness of survey questions posed to parents about improvements, such as smaller class sizes, given the constraints with which the Department of Education operates.

“The DOE is clearly not flexible about class size arrangements, which it makes because of the size of schools, the size of classrooms, the size of the budget. It’s a persistent problem that doesn’t change just because parents put it high on their list of priorities in a survey, so what use is that?” Bloomfield said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.

While the survey serves to evaluate satisfaction by key stakeholders with individual schools and identify a school’s problem areas, the larger system that directly influences individual schools is left out of the equation. The questions posed to students, parents, and teachers on the surveys are related almost exclusively to the individual school and the members and leadership of that individual school. Only two questions asked of parents and seven questions asked of teachers were directly related to the wider New York City school system, run out of the Department of Education, under the Mayor, and there were no questions pertaining to statewide policies such as Common Core Learning Standards or teacher performance evaluations.

Haimson believes that while general questions about parent and teacher satisfaction with broader government and education policy aren’t necessary, asking specific questions on education issues that directly affect students, parents, and teachers would be useful.

“I think is an important question when so much of what’s happening during the school day are driven by these federal or state mandates,” said Haimson.

From 2012 to 2014, the survey given to teachers included questions on the implementation of the Common Core and state assessments, but starting in 2015, Common Core and assessment questions were no longer included. Additionally, on the 2013 and 2014 surveys, parents were asked to record how much they agreed with the statement, “My child’s school...helps me understand what the Common Core learning standards mean for my child…” The 2015 and 2016 parent surveys did not include this question.

According to the DOE, the questions about the Common Core that appeared on previous surveys were included to evaluate the implementation of the then new instruction method. On more recent surveys, there have been questions pertaining to Common Core instruction, though the specific term “Common Core” has not been included.

While certain questions have been changed or taken out of the survey in recent years, a new series of questions was added in 2016. Parents and teachers involved with Mayor de Blasio’s “Pre-K for All” program were given surveys this year for the first time in the survey’s history (the students are four years old and not given surveys, which only go to students in grades 6 through 12). While the rates of parent satisfaction on every aspect of the pre-K program exceeded 90 percent, the response rate for both parents and teachers was low, at 47 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

“The NYC School Survey is a critical, research-based tool for getting the feedback of over one million parents, teachers, and students, and using that feedback to improve our schools. This year’s results recognize the hard work and dedication of school leaders and teachers, and will guide schools as they continue to make progress and work towards equity and excellence,” said the DOE in a statement made available to Gotham Gazette via email.

High marks from parents on pre-K and the high marks recorded across all public schools in New York City may reflect general satisfaction, but Professor Bloomfield doesn’t believe they confirm with any certainty that the survey is a valuable tool for New Yorkers.

“I think there’s a bigger question as to whether it’s worth all the money, time, and effort that it takes to put out the survey as relative to its worth,” Bloomfield said. “It becomes a very hard thing and a PR problem for any mayor or chancellor who would cut back on the survey, but is it really worth it?”

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by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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DOE School Survey Shows High Marks, Contrasts with Public Polling Tue, 09 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio School Discipline Policy Shift Causes A Stir http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6360:de-blasio-school-discipline-policy-shift-causes-a-stir http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6360:de-blasio-school-discipline-policy-shift-causes-a-stir de blasio school student discipline

De Blasio at Brooklyn Generation School (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)


In April 2015, the New York City Department of Education modified its discipline code and added an extra step to the process for suspending students from school. Principals are now required to receive authorization from the DOE before suspending students in grades K through 2 for any behavior or any student of any age for incidents involving insubordination, such as cursing at a teacher or refusing to leave a classroom. The change was made in an effort to move away from overusing suspensions and toward alternative disciplinary measures that address the root causes of disruptive behavior.

In its first year of implementation, the change in suspension policy and the overall culture shift related to school discipline that the de Blasio administration has sought have yielded a dramatic decrease in student suspensions. The shift has been praised widely, but has also been met with resistance as some say schools are under-resourced to work with students who need to be out of the classroom and others say the policy is leading to a deterioration of school climate.

When a school seeks a ‘superintendent’s suspension,’ which can range from six days to one year, an electronic request with a description of the incident is sent to the borough directors of suspension at the DOE, who vote on authorization. An affirmative vote will send the case to the hearing office and begin the suspension process. With the policy change, ‘principal suspensions,’ which range from one to five days, for younger students and cases of minor infractions will follow the same procedure. After the vote, a conversation with the principal is initiated to discuss potential alternative disciplinary measures.

“Suspension alone doesn’t change a child’s behavior,” Lois Herrera, CEO of Youth Safety and Development, told Gotham Gazette. “But, for example, restorative practices where the student has to take ownership of the behavior, explain the harm or understand the harm that is caused, and then come up with a solution for repairing the harm is so much more powerful in terms of changing behavior.”

What Herrera is explaining is the move toward the “restorative justice” model of school discipline, where students are guided in repairing relationships and investigating the causes of their actions. The process has been panned by some, but the de Blasio administration and the City Council have both committed to it for New York City schools.

In the first half of the school year, the number of suspensions decreased by almost 32 percent compared to the first half of last school year, according to a report from the DOE. While many saw this as a mark of success, criticisms of the new suspension policy also began to pick up steam. Representatives from both charter school advocacy groups and the teachers’ union expressed concerns, claiming the new policy interferes with discipline and jeopardizes student safety.

The DOE does not oversee disciplinary practices at charter schools. Some charter schools, especially the Success Academy network, have come under scrutiny for their “zero tolerance” discipline code and high suspension rates. Education reform groups like Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY, erstwhile de Blasio critics, have become especially vocal in criticizing the de Blasio administration’s discipline policy. A group led by Families for Excellent Schools even filed a class action lawsuit against the DOE for its “refusal to take action to keep children safe.”

A typical de Blasio ally, the United Federation of Teachers, has seen its president say the DOE has not provided adequate support for schools to begin using alternative discipline.

The DOE has received $47 million from the city to fund restorative justice programs and mental health supports in schools throughout the city during the next academic year. According to DOE officials, the funding will be used for staff training in social-emotional learning, youth suicide prevention, and therapeutic crisis intervention. It will also allow the DOE to hire more social workers, on-site mental health consultants, and counselors.

Staff trained in restorative disciplinary practices will learn to conduct restorative circles, which engage students in repairing and developing relationships, and restorative conferences, which hold a student accountable for his or her actions and the resulting harm and also provides an opportunity to repair the harm.

“It isn’t just about taking away something,” said Herrera. “It’s about also providing support and a new way of thinking. It’s a little bit of a mindshift, and in a system as large as the DOE a mindshift can take a number of years.”

After years of advocacy by some, the changes began last November when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to reduce the use of punitive school discipline and lower school crime rates.

“Parents in all neighborhoods across New York City deserve to the peace of mind to know that their children are empowered to learn and succeed in a safe, inclusive environment,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release. “This roadmap will ensure that schools across the city bring families, educators, safety professionals, and community leaders together to support one of New York City's most prized resources – our students."

The release also stated that harsh discipline policies disproportionately affected students of color and students with disabilities. Last October, Chalkbeat NY reported that black students received about 52 percent of the previous year’s suspensions, even though they represent 28 percent of students. Students with disabilities - 18 percent of the student population - received 38 percent of the suspensions. Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-backed group, believes that suspensions for childish behavior, such as writing on a desk or yelling, drive this racial disparity.

“The disparities are clear. The racial lines are very clear, not only in New York but across the country, of what children are being suspended,” Ansari said in a phone interview. “It’s important to remember that the DOE hasn’t eliminated suspensions as an option for schools, but that it created another level of authorization for suspensions for minor infractions.”

With this added authorization, Ansari hopes that school officials will continue to have in-depth conversations about what supports students need and that students will learn better conflict resolution skills.

Relying on disciplinary measures other than suspension can also benefit students’ futures, research has shown. When de Blasio created a Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline last year, researchers studied the negative effects of suspensions and repeated behavioral referrals. According to NYU Professor Eddie Fergus, who served as the co-chair of the team’s data and research group, suspensions result in loss of educational time, attendance issues, and a higher likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system.

A majority of education advocates, academics, and other experts agree that students should not be suspended from school for things like talking back to a teacher or engaging in a verbal argument with a classmate. All agree, though, that schools must have the proper resources to work with students in conflict. If there has been a choppy first phase of the new DOE discipline policy, it has been around those resources. The ratio of students to guidance counselors in city schools has been the subject of controversy recently, and the de Blasio administration has increased funding for more counselors.

There are also always those resistant to change, some point out.

Advocates for Children began the School Justice Project to address the root causes of suspension and help keep students out of the criminal justice system. The project also helps students in juvenile detention or those returning from detention stay on track to reach their academic goals.

“When students are suspended, it increases their likelihood of not graduating from high school, it increases their likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Paulina Davis, supervising attorney of AFC’s School Justice Project. “There are high stakes outcomes on the line every time a student is suspended. So it’s really a process that we need to be very thoughtful about.”

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by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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De Blasio School Discipline Policy Shift Causes A Stir Wed, 25 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Senate Holds Second Mayoral Control Hearing, Without the Mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6347:senate-holds-second-mayoral-control-hearing-without-the-mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6347:senate-holds-second-mayoral-control-hearing-without-the-mayor de blasio business leaders buery farina

De Blasio at City Hall on Wednesday (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


Just one day after Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at City Hall with a bevy of business leaders to push for extending mayoral control of New York City schools, the state Senate education committee held its second hearing on the issue right across the street. Administration officials, education professionals and advocates testified to make their case for and against mayoral control (mostly for) as state Senators demanded answers on a wide range of educational policies, while repeatedly noting the conspicuous absence of the mayor himself.

The debate around mayoral control has reignited as the June 30 deadline for extending it fast approaches. The Democrat-controlled Assembly gave the mayor a three-year extension on Tuesday and the ball is now in the Senate’s court, where Republicans who have control of the chamber have been reluctant to extend it beyond one year, if at all. The mayor has spent the last few weeks pushing his administration’s accomplishments to make his case for extending mayoral control for seven years. Having spent four hours at the first hearing in Albany on May 4 arguing for a seven-year extension, de Blasio declined to testify on Thursday. His absence was not taken lightly.

“We are missing the mayor, and he’s the chief player and he’s the person in charge and we would like him to have been here,” said Senator Carl Marcellino, chair of the education committee, in his opening remarks. Without giving examples, he stressed that many questions from the May 4 hearing had been left unanswered and the mayor should have been there to answer them.

Instead, the administration was represented by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who had testified by the mayor’s side in Albany. Throughout her testimony, Fariña sought to establish the gains from mayoral control - increased graduation rates, fewer dropouts, the implementation of universal pre-kindergarten, increased arts education investment, the success of the Renewal Schools program, to name a few.

“Mayoral control also allows us to plan more fully and with more confidence for the future,” Fariña said. “Without mayoral control it would be nearly impossible for a mayor to lay out a long-term detailed vision for our schools such as Equity and Excellence.”

Marcellino, while insisting that Fariña’s testimony was “fantastic,” bookended it with another call out to the mayor. “This would’ve been a better situation if the mayor was here to defend his, and I don’t mean defend in a negative way, but to defend his running of the city schools,” Marcellino said. Other Senators made similar remarks throughout the hearing, including Senators Jose Peralta of Queens and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn.

While the stated agenda of the hearing was mayoral control, it was quickly apparent that it would not be limited solely to the system as a governing structure for education policy-making. Over the course of four-and-a-half hours, the hearing touched on numerous aspects of education policy and planning in the city - overcrowding, school closures, school safety, the number of psychologists per student, the Panel for Educational Policy, and the ever-touchy subject of charters schools.

As he often does, Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan in particular railed against charter schools, stressing that they are an outcropping of the “dictatorial” mayoral control system. At one point during the hearing, Marcellino seemed to rebuke Perkins for deviating from the issue at hand and even offered to hold a separate hearing on charters. A similar scene had unfolded at the May 4 hearing. In this case, Farina was forced to carefully answer charter school-related questions that the de Blasio administration would rather avoid. After battles with charter school, the administration has moved toward a peaceful coexistence model, especially after new state laws forced their hand.

About 20 advocates, education professionals, and experts testified and most were in favor of mayoral control, albeit often with caveats. Some proposed shorter extensions while others proposed reforms to the system at various levels. Some emphasized that their support of mayoral control did not necessarily imply support for all of de Blasio’s policies, or even some. Indeed, the current situation creates an often dissonant reality where some of those who were the strongest proponents of mayoral control under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who first won the power in 2002, are now twisting in knots as they criticize de Blasio’s policies but do not go so far as to call for the end of mayoral control.

Others who testified did oppose mayoral control even while suggesting reforms if it is extended. “Any system of governance must have checks and balances,” said Teresa Arboleda, chair of the Education Council Consortium’s legislative committee, insisting on more local control and parent input in educational policy. “We cannot have a new school system every time there is a new mayor.”

Some of the reforms proposed included:

  • Changes in composition to the Panel for Educational Policy to allow it more independence and insulate it against ‘rubber-stamping’ the mayor’s decisions
  • Reforms in how Community Education Councils are constituted, making CECs more transparent and giving them increased authority
  • Expanding the Citywide Council on Special Education
  • Mandatory experience and qualifications for the schools chancellor
  • More clearly defined discipline policies
  • Equal treatment of charter schools as compared to district schools
  • More transparency in Department of Education contract procurement and policy making

Jacob Mnookin, founder and executive director of Coney Island Preparatory Charter School, supports an extension of the system, he said, but insisted that the mayor should stop letting his political agenda interfere with student education. The mayor has been a very vocal opponent of the charter school movement in the city. “All public school students deserve to be treated equally no matter what politics are at play,” said Mnookin. “The mayor must address these inequalities present in the public school system of New York City.”

The two most important people were not at Thursday's hearing, though: Mayor de Blasio and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Flanagan, formerly chair of the education committee and a critic of de Blasio, had chastised the mayor's refusal to appear before the committee a second time in a Wednesday statement. Though he was not there, Flanagan had also criticized de Blasio after the May 4 hearing in Albany, saying he had not answered many of the questions posed to him in a satisfactory fashion, which surprised many who had witnessed it. Flanagan will negotiate extension of mayoral control with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a de Blasio ally, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is in a long-standing feud with the mayor. Cuomo did call for a three-year extension of mayoral control in his January budget.

Although there emerged plenty of ideas about how to change the system on Thursday, and ample criticism of its weaknesses, most people did not want to see a reversion to the old school board system. Not many could even articulate what would happen if mayoral control did indeed lapse. The final speaker of the day, Dennis Walcott, president and CEO of the Queens Library system, perhaps had the most informed perspective on that issue. Walcott served as Schools Chancellor before Farina and deputy mayor of education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He stressed that the old Board of Education system was chaotic and plagued by “patronage, waste, dysfunction” and that mayoral control reversed that. “Mayoral control is about making the mayor, elected by the people of New York City, take responsibility for the education of our city and effectuate the best education possible for our children,” he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Senate Holds Second Mayoral Control Hearing, Without the Mayor Fri, 20 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Concerns Over Proceedings as De Blasio Administration Faces Second Mayoral Control Hearing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6341:extension-of-mayoral-school-control-politicized-some-say http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6341:extension-of-mayoral-school-control-politicized-some-say de blasio farina state senate

De Blasio testifying in Albany (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


It was supposed to be the grilling to end all grillings: Mayor Bill de Blasio seated at a small table, staring up at glowering Republican state Senators carrying major grudges for his work to oust them from power in the 2014 elections, all carrying the fate of his ability to enact education policy in the palm of their hands. That wasn’t what took place.

The May 4 hearing in Albany on mayoral control of city schools featured four hours of meandering questioning, polite responses, and a generally cordial atmosphere. There was no major comeuppance despite one seemingly scripted attempt by Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy to chide de Blasio for the investigations he currently faces. Murphy’s staff quickly blasted out a press release about how he had challenged the mayor.

It was surprising to many who had witnessed the hearing when, the day after, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement blasting the mayor’s testimony and calling his competence into question. “Too often, the mayor showed a disturbing lack of personal knowledge about the city schools. In addition, he has left too many unanswered questions and failed to provide specifics on many of the issues raised by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Flanagan said in a statement. “Until that occurs, I will not entrust this mayor with the awesome responsibility of operating the New York City school system.”

Flanagan’s statement on the hearing convinced many Democrats and education advocates that the two May hearings on mayoral control are politically motivated. The de Blasio administration - represented by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, but not the mayor - is scheduled to testify again during a hearing in Manhattan on Thursday. Flanagan released a statement Wednesday morning criticizing the mayor for the decision not to testify: "I am extremely disappointed the Mayor doesn't believe this hearing is significant enough to attend," he said. "With the future of mayoral control at stake, Mayor de Blasio has left too many unanswered questions about his stewardship of the New York City school system." 

The mayor was granted just a one-year extension of mayoral control last year. His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was the first to be given mayoral control by the state - which provided an original term of seven years in 2002, followed by a six year extension that was due to expire last year.

Testimony for both of this month’s hearings has been “by invitation only” and according to a number of parents, education groups, and Senate Democrats several parents have been told they will not be allowed to testify and instead can submit written testimony. Senate Republicans released a list of those who will testify on Thursday - like the first hearing, it is heavy on charter school supporters and others in the education reform community.

On Tuesday, the Assembly passed a three-year extension of mayoral control. The Democratic Assembly Majority had previously supported a seven-year extension. De Blasio issued a statement thanking the Assembly.

“Along with a bipartisan coalition of New Yorkers, we refuse to subject more than one million schoolchildren to the dysfunction and chaos of the old system,” de Blasio’s statement reads. “We once again urge swift approval by the entire legislature of this proven governance structure.”

The three-year extension is seen by many as a concession to Senate Republicans. Some Democrats privately worry that Senate Republicans will push for another single-year extension - something Gov. Andrew Cuomo, locked in an ongoing feud with de Blasio, would likely support, as he did last year.

“I was very surprised to hear Senator Flanagan’s assessment of the mayor’s testimony mainly because he didn't attend the hearing,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, who questioned the mayor at the hearing. “I thought the mayor was on point, answered directly, and seemed to have command of the issues. I was gratified following the hearing that some of my Republicans colleagues agreed.”

Hoylman said Flanagan's statement, “made it pretty obvious this has little to do with the well-being of 1.1 million public school kids and has become a proverbial political football.”

Sen. Liz Krueger, also a Manhattan Democrat, expressed a similar take on Flanagan’s statement. Saying it “did not seem to reflect my observations at the hearing, nor my discussions with senators in attendance. I think there was general agreement between Democrats and Republicans that the mayor and his team did an excellent job answering questions. And they all supported mayoral control.”

De Blasio was flanked in Albany by city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who will be at the center of attention on Thursday, as well as aides.

Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino, the education committee chair who oversaw the hearings in a steady fashion, did not return requests for comment; neither did Flanagan’s office.

Hoylman said he has yet to decide whether he will attend the next hearing, saying he has concerns they are a “kangaroo court.”

Krueger expressed her concerns about the process by which people were invited to testify. She and Hoylman said they had heard from parents and parent groups who were told they could not testify in person and were asked to submit testimony.

“I hope that the people who testify at round two of the hearing represent parents, teachers, principals and local elected officials,” said Krueger. “They were not heard in Albany at Round 1.” After de Blasio and Farina, many of the speakers at the first hearing were tied to charter schools, which are largely supported by Senate Republicans. De Blasio has been the target of protests and campaigns by charter groups because he has not been a supporter of charter schools and sought to limit their growth.

Shino Tanikawa, president of Community Education Council District 2, said she has made multiple attempts to testify as a parent at the upcoming hearing, contacting Marcellino’s office as well as a number of other legislators. She said the last communication was from Marcellino’s office telling her she could submit written testimony. She’s given up on testifying in person.

Tanikawa said she has been put off by the entire process. “The Albany hearing was very skewed because you had quite a few people in support of charter schools,” said Tanikawa. “I don't think there were any parents at the hearing. This next one seems pretty opaque, all we know is there is a hearing. We don’t know who is testifying or how long it's going to last.” (One of the charter school supporters who testified in Albany is a parent who also helps lead a pro-charter group.)

Tanikawa wondered why the hearing isn’t held in the fashion of the City Council where testimony is open to the public and those who sign up to testify do so under a specified time limit.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, will be testifying at Thursday’s hearing, but she is also disheartened by the process. “I’m very concerned that this has turned into a political football,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette of mayoral control of schools. “Many parents were against mayoral control under Bloomberg and they still are against it now under Bill de Blasio. This is about a system, but the Legislature seems to change their minds depending on who's in office. They don’t care that it leads to irrational policy and unwise spending.”

Haimson was not impressed with the level of questioning at the first hearing, saying it was tangential and without much substance. “I don’t think Albany has much to say about New York City’s schools. They should stay out of it. It would be better if it were up to the [City] Council, people who serve closer to the people. There is no reason this decision should be made upstate.”

On Wednesday afternoon, de Blasio will lead a press conference at City Hall with business leaders who support an extension of mayoral control.

Sen. Hoylman said that although he is appreciative that the Senate is actually holding a hearing on an important legislative issue he is concerned these hearings are being used as political leverage.

“I think it is the height of hypocrisy that they authorized the previous mayor twice because of an increase in test scores and graduation rates and that's exactly seen under Mayor de Blasio’s tenure. This is clearly an application of a double standard and I wouldn't be so upset if I wasn’t a city resident with a five-year-old in public school myself. The fact that we have non-New York city legislators without kids deciding who is overseeing this system makes no sense. Hearing from parents in the system is crucial to understanding its efficacy.”

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note: this story has been updated with news that de Blasio will not be testifying at Thursday's hearing and with comment from Sen. Flanagan.

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Concerns Over Proceedings as De Blasio Administration Faces Second Mayoral Control Hearing Tue, 17 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000