Monday, December 28, 2015

Coal in the Stocking for Bill de Blasio: Point by Point Case How His DOE is as Heartless as Any Reformy Mayor

How different is Bill from Mike?
De Blasio: which side are you on? Your education record shows that you are on the same side as Bloomberg, Cuomo, Tisch and Coleman

De Blasio to sick and injured teachers: Drop dead
The New York City Department of Education is still as heartless as ever, denying injured people their due days off. People with iron-clad doctor's documentation of valid sick claims are being denied their days off. After their return to work, the DOE comes after them for AWOL issues. Yet, the DOE is at fault, its modus operandi is to drag its feet on medical claims, and then after the injured teachers exceed their ten annual sick days, it targets them.
The NYC DOE is suddenly finding fault in the teaching acumen of a veteran teacher. He so happened to have taken a medical leave, yet in a likely case of retaliation for disputes over his leave and for his years of activism he is being targeted with repeat observations.
Interpretation: the DOE is being very tight-fisted with its budgeting, and that's why it is nickel and dime denying granting sick time to the injured or chronically ill.

De Blasio to teachers exercising free speech: our Stasi is still active
The DOE still has people dedicated to monitoring teachers' use of social media, such as Facebook. The DOE still has an alphabet soup of agencies with trench-coat men that administrators use against teachers over the flimsiest of accusations. From the number of 3020a's that the city is pursuing, it is doubtful that the city has dismissed its huge posse of attorneys in its teacher performance unit. The TPU works hand in glove with vindictive principals to target teachers on the most spurious of charges. This is continuing unabated under de Blasio/Farina.

De Blasio to teachers: we're coming after your pensions
As the Chaz School Daze and the NYC Rubber Room Reporter have been documenting for years, the DOE has particularly set its sights on terminating senior teachers. (See previous section for the TPU's role here.) This is continuing at full strength and it includes the DOE's program to “thin the herd,” and terminate ATR's.

Harassment until teachers quit serves the same tight-fisted budget mentality: when the administrators harass teachers until they quit the DOE will be spared paying unemployment pay to these teachers.
Bill de Blasio is just as much dedicated to prematurely ending careers as the previous mayor.

De Blasio to teachers: we could care less as to whether technology distracts students
De Blasio and chancellor Carmen Farina lifted the cell phone ban and they lifted the DOE filters on YouTube videos and other highly distracting sites. It is very ironic that one cannot do certain legitimate searches on DOE computers (yet, in continuation from the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott years, the DOE allows floods of commercial spam on DOE emails); and meanwhile filters on certain searches in place four years ago have vanished. Students are using the cell phones in schools and in class rampantly. Police are suspecting that gangs at the Lehman high school complex are using them to coordinate fights and in the Westchester Square section of the Bronx this has led to weeks of mayhem, jeopardizing the neighborhood's commercial viability.

On distractive technology Bloomberg actually had the better policy than de Blasio. Either the new mayor is just coddling the students or he is intentionally adding to factors that will distract students and thus bring down teachers' productivity.

De Blasio to teachers: just dare to evade Common Core and you'll be sanctioned for defying its mandate
Common Core was drafted by people with no K-12 teaching experience; it fits perfectly into plans for standardized testing. These tests had alienated students across the country as hundreds of thousands refused to cooperate.
Common Core channels narrow interpretation of texts. It conceives of limited interpretations of text. Its methods mitigate against critical thinking. It demands the marginalization of literature. Its mathematical methods are highly unusual and profoundly alienate parents, thus disenfranchising parents from helping with their children's homework.
In contrast to de Blasio's public fights with New York governor Andrew Cuomo, he has said nothing on Common Core. As of this December 28, 2015 writing Common Core has virtual force of law in New York State and New York City. Administrators continue to insist that teachers follow it. 
Thus, it is inappropriate that the media have interpreted recent federal ESEA legislation and NYSED Common Core pronouncements as meaning there is a New York state shift away from Common Core. As any NYS or NYC teacher will tell you, administrators are still using Common Core to evaluate lessons.

The New York City Department of Education's own house sub-agency of standards refinement continues to adopt and enthusiastically refine New York state's version of Common Core. The NYC DOE, despite the widespread popular rejection of Common Core still cooperates with plans to further impose Common Core's focus on textual analysis on science, social studies and even physical education, dislodging the conventional agendas of those subjects. It continues to indoctrinate and train administrators and teachers in the methods of Common Core. 

Teachers have cited the CCSS-related tests' inappropriateness and their negative emotional impacts on many students. Parents have objected to the CCSS-based high stakes tests fundamental purpose in stack-ranking evaluations of teachers. Parents, and some teachers, have created a massive statewide movement against these tests, citing cooperating with the tests as educationally inappropriate and morally compromising. 

Your morals or you job:
NYC imposes a gag order on teachers and principals, forcing them to not advocate opting out; this mirrors NYS mandates that these professionals cannot even quote questions or answer choices from the tests. The NYC DOE under de Blasio and Farina is sticking by these stances against test opt-out just as tenaciously as the DOE under Bloomberg and Walcott, and just as tenaciously as the NYS under Cuomo and state regents chancellor Merryl Tisch.

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio is cooperating with the most insidious aspect of the education reform movement: the turning education into an experience restrained from critical reflection and centered around teaching for standardized tests. NYC mayor by his complete cooperation with Cuomo and his perpetuation of the Bloomberg Common Core commitment is on the wrong side of the education's central conflict in our era; he is on the same side as David Coleman, Arne Duncan, John King and so on.

De Blasio to students of color and low income students: we're a Jim Crow system and we're not going to sincerely move to correct it -- Teachers, we'll punish you if you openly criticize it
New York City as of Spring, 2014, ranked as the most segregated school system in thecountry. In just two years it moved from position of being reported as the third most segregated school system, behind Chicago.  Yet, not only does the city maintain different standards of school tone, curriculum offerings, sports offerings, library, P.E. resources for different ethnic populations, it maintains this by a class dynamic as well. Note that it was under de Blasio that the citytargeted a Bronx teacher for daring to speak out on behalf of student-athletes, on how their options were inferior to those in more privileged schools. 

Driving the caste system that the DOE maintains is a competitive application system. Students not only have to apply and compete for a high school slot, they must apply to intermediate and other lower level schools. Sickeningly, parents must apply to have their child enroll in pre-Kindergarten programs. As the subway ads emphasize, there are deadlines, much as colleges have deadlines. And the program itself is plagued by problems of failing to adequately serve the neediest populations.

What Fuller and his team found is that the preschool seats are more prevalent in the city’s most affluent neighborhoods than they are in the poorest ones. Whereas 41 percent of the slots are located in the most affluent one-fifth of the city’s zip codes, just 30 percent of them are in the poorest one-fifth—a dynamic that researchers in part attribute to New York’s real-estate limitations. Upper-middle-class areas appear to have gotten about as many new pre-k seats as have the poorest ones. And roughly 11,000 4-year-olds living in those poorest neighborhoods aren’t even enrolled in the program, according Fuller.

 .   .   .

But the study finds that, though de Blasio’s office insists that the new program is benefitting lower-income parts of the city, that claim fails to take into account the much higher numbers of 4-year-olds living in poor neighborhoods than in more affluent ones. Following up on the administration's response, Fuller said the percentages reveal that de Blasio is "evenly spreading new seats across the city, rich and poor ... and this fails to move the system toward equitable access."

The high school placement program, in fact, was developed by the same developer that developed a medical school resident placement program
With the new competitive school choice model, the system concentrates level 1 (in English Language Arts or Math) students into “troubled schools,” and it concentrates levels 3 and 4 into “successful schools.” Thus, it is no wonder that the city's underperforming students are concentrated in the city's most segregated schools. Even the New York Post recognizes this fact. Yet, de Blasio, who is supposed to be a better, more compassionate mayor than Bloomberg cannot recognize this fact.
Also, as a New School study documents in great detail, with accessible maps to illustrate the point, New York City's school placement process actually creates schools that are far more segregated than the neighborhoods where they are located.

The fraud of school choice leading to school excellence has a huge infrastructure toll as well. In a city that is already strained to the limit with high population and a growing number of public transit users, school choice has forced thousands of students to commute, exacerbating the great

Gone are the days when a student could go to the school of his or her neighborhood, “school choice” means that students apply and that they are sent all over the city. This erodes the neighborhood-school connection for students to identify with. Also, if students must spend an hour on multiple transportation modes getting to school, you can be sure that parents have as hard a time getting to parent engagement nights.

Bloomberg transposed the competitive model for education with his demolition of the traditional zone system in favor of school choice. Schools often realized their potential as spaces for social heterogeneity. Now, with the competitive model, the separation means that inequality worsens. De Blasio has perpetuated Bloomberg's caste-school system with no significant changes to eradicate the inequalities of opportunity.

Summative interpretation:
Bloomberg was on a mission to transform the teacher from a respectful profession to one which is demeaned and harassed. This means that this teaching force would be a transient one that did not know its rights. De Blasio has done hardly anything to lessen the severity of how the DOE despised teachers. 

The Bloomberg changes did not produce educational improvement. The proof of this is the widespread de facto policy of "just pass everybody," the credit recovery programs that give a semester's worth of credit for merely completing a single assignment. This is blatant cheating, used to desperately cover a tremendously failed record. This has given a poor lesson to New York City students: that they can pass, regardless of taking personal responsibility. This has meant that New York City students are poorly prepared for even CUNY community colleges. This has meant that the scholastic worth of a New York City diploma is rather contestable, particularly if the school is one that practices the intellectually dishonest practices just mentioned. Yet, all the trends of administrator lax standards, as documented on the Chaz School Daze blog, are continuing under de Blasio-Farina with no apparent change from the Bloomberg years.

If the 2013 mayoral election were to mean anything it would have meant correction of the many ways that the DOE had taken a wrong course since 2002. Yet, Farina failed to clean house and replace the principals that fostered a climate of fear. Farina and de Blasio failed to appoint Tweed (DOE headquarters) officials that would part from the destructive ways of the Bloomberg administration. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Farina "Buy Rosetta Stone" Statement Illustrates Basic Bloomberg Term IV Nature of De Blasio's DOE

Bill de Blasio's New York City Department of Education is clearly operating as a continuation of the Michael Bloomberg regime. De Blasio campaigned as a progressive, but his actions speak louder than words. Schools chancellor Carmen Farina has stepped to a new low with her new statement.

Parents were upset with the city's cuts in foreign language instruction.  Farina told them to buy the Rosetta Stone language program if they were so keen to have their children learn a foreign language. Foreign language has been a rarer offering in middle and high schools. Just fourteen years ago many high schools offered language study of several languages. This has been scaled back to just Spanish. And many schools offer no foreign language. This is a casualty of the city complying with the small schools policy prerogative of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates.

Here is the critical passage from the DNAinfo article reporting on Farina's statement:

Parents worried about cuts to school foreign-language programs were told by education chief Carmen Fariña that, if they don't like it, they should buy the pricey audio course Rosetta Stone.
The schools chancellor slapped down concerns about the loss of language classes at a recent town hall meeting to discuss the effectiveness of dual-language programs and second-language learning in Uptown's District 6.
When the mother of a seventh-grade student at the Mott Hall School told Fariña that her son had his French courses cut from twice to once a week amid a growing emphasis on STEM education — short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — Fariña gave an answer that drew gasps from the room.
Moreover, the fact that Farina made this admonition in NYC DOE District 6, which serves the Washington Heights part of Manhattan, strikes this writer as a racist and classist policy. For, I highly doubt that she would have the same gall to resist offering foreign language in the whiter and more affluent schools, such as those in southern Brooklyn (Murrow or Midwood High Schools) or eastern Brooklyn (Cardozo High School). And just where is the United Federation of Teachers on this? Silent, and I expect them to remain so. The UFT takes a policy of aligning with the most viable liberal it thinks it could find, and if that candidate is elected, publicly supporting the candidate. Don't wait for Michael Mulgrew to denounce Farina's cavalier statement.

Monday, December 21, 2015

DeBlasio's Cell Phone Policy Threatens Community Business and Positive Educational Outcomes

*Bronx neighb mayhem out of control *Problems of cell phone use as a social justice issue 

Bill DeBlasio has placated parents' desire for their children to take cell phones to school. However, the new policy has several negative impacts on communities and on educational outcomes. All parties concerned with peaceful neighborhoods and positive educational outcomes should argue for the mayor and the New York City Department of Education to re-think the cellphone policy.

News outlets across the country, in the Los Angeles area ("Parents Concerned by Fist Fights Posted on Social Media"), to Georgia ("Social Media Poses Challenge for Schools as Student Fights Spread, Schools and the community dissect the troubling student fights that are gaining notoriety online, are reporting that school fights are being captured by students and are being shared on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram") are reporting youth mayhem that is fed by the wide availability of cell phones.

In the last two months, Bronx schools and neighborhoods are slipping into chaos. Unless DeBlasio steps in, these neighborhoods will slip further into a Clockwork Orange kind of disorder. First this happened in the Evander Childs campus. Yet, this is taking a worsening, escalating course in the Westchester Square area. And local authorities are seeing these fights as gang-related.

Just as the Bronx is experiencing a renaissance, cellphone-triggered chaos is jeopardizing that progress. Several news outlets are reporting that, as in other schools in the city (as had been reported to me by a school safety agent also), only weeks after DeBlasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina lifted the cellphone ban, students started to arrange fights, coordinated by using cellphones, within the school and by contacting individuals outside of the school. As reported this week and last week, city councilors in the Bronx are suspecting that students at the Lehman campus have started a routine of setting off fire alarms, then coordinating fights via cellphone. Additionally, students are documenting the fights with their cell phones, and then sending the fights viral, by social media sites.

These fights are now happening a few times a week, and students are extending the mayhem to commercial districts, such as Westchester Square. Merchants' shop windows are being broken. Stoked by the adrenaline of the disorder, students are harassing store owners with racial slurs. Some shopkeepers have said that if this continues they will be forced to close. The continuing mayhem hit the New York Post this weekend.

Will this change? Hardly likely. The major stakeholders, the mayor, the schools chancellor, the city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew are committed to a permissive cell phone policy. The absence of a popularly elected school board means that reversal of this policy will be quite slow.

The legacy of Michael Bloomberg's school policies are worsening matters. Bloomberg, cooperating the Bill Gates' small schools initiatives, broke up large high schools. Cooperating with the influence of Eli Broad, a new breed of principals, with limited school experience and little or no initial training as school assistant principals, have taken office. As the schools were broken up, the numbers of deans shrank or disappeared. Also, guidance counselor ranks shriveled up, as the DOE replaced their roles with those of classroom teachers, assigning the latter "advisory periods."

The outcome of these policies is that greater numbers of students now roam the halls, unchecked by deans conducting sweeps. The new principals lack the institutional memory of years of experience as teachers and assistant principals, years that would give them experience in the basics of managing schools. Places like Lehman campus are stuffed with schools led by neophyte principals. Leading a school is more than supervising teachers. While the Leadership Academy principals think that their role is just to supervise teachers, experience school leaders know that setting school tone is important.

The critical negative impact of cell phones and the fruits of cell phone bans

Research reported this year indicated that when schools implement cell phone bans test scores improve.  The gains are even greater in schools with lower income populations. Researchers, being out of the classroom as actual teachers are missing the terrible scale of distraction that phones and game players provide: means for taking pictures, shooting video, viewing pictures, watching videos, viewing pornography. It is disingenuous for all the parties promoting their introduction into the classroom. Only the well motivated students will commit themselves to keeping them out of site and out of use. To the distractable student, few topics can compete with messaging gossip, porno pictures or bloody games.

The United Kingdom researchers directly criticized DeBlasio and Farina's decision to lift the cell phone ban, as reported this year in the Guardian ("Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results: Effect of ban on phones adds up to equivalent of extra week of classes over a pupil’s school year"):
However, some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city’s chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

This view is misguided, according to Beland and Murphy, who found that the ban produced improvements in test scores among students, with the lowest-achieving students gaining twice as much as average students. The ban had a greater positive impact on students with special education needs and those eligible for free school meals, while having no discernible effect on high achievers.

“We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.

“Therefore, de Blasio’s lifting of the ban on mobile phones with a stated intention of reducing inequalities may in fact lead to the opposite. Allowing phones into schools will harm the lowest-achieving and low-income students the most.”
Thus, DeBlasio's cell phone policy hurts the lower income and special education students.

So, we can safely call the situation: DeBlasio and Mulgrew vs. students, and teachers, whose positive evaluations hinge on positive test scores.

Cell phones threaten educational process and they threaten

Monday, December 7, 2015

Research-Backed Book on How Education Alone Does Not Overcome Poverty

The buzz in the media is that education is essential, and the only if teachers and schools would improve, then this would adequately address issues of poor jobs and poverty more generally. People paying attention to all the reality realize otherwise. Here's a new book, publicized on Diane Ravitch's blog.

Grawemeyer Award Goes to Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson

by dianeravitch
The University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award in Education is a major honor for a book. This year's winners wrote an important book that shows that education alone does not overcome poverty. The implication is that society must have social and economic policies that reduce poverty in addition to providing equal educational opportunity. In 2015, the award went to Andrew Hargreaves and Michael Fullan for their book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School; in 2014, I received the award for The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education; in 2013, Pasi Sahlberg received it for his book Finnish Lessons. The judges have good taste and very high standards!
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Those born into poverty are unlikely to escape it—even if they have access to better opportunities through education. That's a key conclusion drawn by the three scholars who have been named winners of the 2016 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education.
In their 2014 book "The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood," authors Karl Alexander, the late Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson followed nearly 800 Baltimore-area urban youths from first grade through adulthood and found that socioeconomic status trumps education when it comes to life outcomes. Their research spans nearly three decades and challenges the idea that access to public education means equal opportunity.
"Studies of this depth and breadth that include census data, historical narratives, personal interviews, race, gender, family background, neighborhood and school conditions and social mobility over a lifetime are quite rare," said award director Melissa Evans-Andris. "The authors conclude that children's life outcomes are substantially determined by the families they are born into. For example, just four percent of the youngsters from low-income families went on to get a college degree by age 28."
"The Long Shadow," published by the Russell Sage Foundation, is part of the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology and has earned widespread recognition for providing a better understanding of how disadvantaged beginnings impact future social mobility.
All three authors of "The Long Shadow" were employed at Johns Hopkins University. Alexander is the John Dewey Professor Emeritus of Sociology; Entwisle, who died in 2013, was research professor of sociology; and Olson, who recently retired, was an associate research scientist with the university's Center for Social Organization of Schools.
All 2016 Grawemeyer Award winners will be announced this week, pending formal approval by the university's board of trustees. The University of Louisville presents the prizes annually the prizes annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education and gives a religion prize jointly with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The 2016 winners will present free lectures about their award-winning ideas when they visit Louisville in April to accept their $100,000 prizes.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Clearing the Confusion on the Good and the Bad in the ESSA, the rewrite of No Child Left Behind

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is well over 100 pages. The bill received wide bipartisan support, winning by 359 to 64 in the House of Representatives. It heads next to the Senate.

The usual suspects have dissected and drawn out the important parts for you.

At the Washington Post they point out that the ESSA shifts authority from the federal government to the states. So, in New York State we have been wondering when or how governor Andrew Cuomo will let up his onerous treatment of teachers. See Emma Brown's "How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind", November 30, 2015 in the Washington Post.

Until his recent moderating moves on Common Core, one would expect that he would continue to heavily base teachers' evaluations on test scores. So, New Yorkers are in a wait and see mode on whether he will continue to heavily weigh teacher evaluation by test scores.

Same thing about how to treat "struggling schools." Obama and Bush's previous bills and bureaucratic initiatives pressed states to shut down schools. This new bill eases that, relegating the matter to the states. Do not hold your breath waiting for Cuomo to end his receivership approach to low income "failing" schools in New York.

The new bill still sets the bar for 95 percent of students to participate. But again, this time the new bill leaves the matter up to the states to decide how to act.

The new bill includes disturbing provisions that are give-aways to teacher education programs such as those funded by the New Schools Venture Fund. NSVF heavily prejudiced resources and respect to new small schools in New York City under the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Similarly Mercedes Schneider points out how the new law benefits various pay for success initiatives.
Also, she has pointed out how, while the new law has provisions for security of student data, it still requires states to collect it.

* * *
The ESSA is a flawed bill, but it is a great improvement over the state of U.S. educational matters. It is an improvement over the extra-legislative stratagems and dictates of the Race to the Top, as imposed by the Obama/Arne Duncan administration.